June 29, 2018 / 2:33 AM / a year ago

Shanghai rebar set for best quarter in five on firm demand

* Chinese demand for flat steel products steady

* But appetite for long products weak as construction slows

* Dalian iron ore futures hit two-week high

By Manolo Serapio Jr

MANILA, June 29 (Reuters) - Shanghai rebar steel futures climbed more than 1 percent on Friday and were headed for their biggest quarterly gain since January-March last year, buoyed by firm Chinese demand even as signs of seasonally slower consumption emerged in recent weeks.

Stocks of construction steel product rebar had dropped for 14 straight weeks before rising last week as seasonal rains in China’s southern region and hot weather in the north curbed construction activity.

The absence of any fresh buildup in trade tensions between the United States and its trading partners including China also supported quarter-end buying, although an analyst said volatility will remain high.

“The view is mixed. Some people are very cautious because of the complications (arising from the trade tensions), but some people believe that relatively healthy profitability at Chinese steel mills will support prices,” said Kevin Bai, analyst at CRU consultancy in Beijing.

The most-active October rebar contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange was up 1.3 percent at 3,785 yuan ($570) a tonne by 0217 GMT, after initially scaling a one-week high of 3,802 yuan.

Rebar has gained nearly 14 percent so far in April-June, its biggest quarterly rise since the first quarter of 2017.

Hot rolled coil futures rose 1 percent to 3,913 yuan per tonne, and have increased 16 percent for the quarter, the most since July-September last year.

While demand for construction, or long steel products, has slowed along with construction activity in China, the appetite for flat products such, as hot rolled coil, remains steady given a largely firm manufacturing industry, said Bai.

“The manufacturing sector is relatively steady, but infrastructure investment is slowing down so that impacts on construction as well,” he said.

Iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange was up 1.1 percent at 471.50 yuan a tonne, after earlier touching a two-week peak of 476 yuan. The price of the steelmaking ingredient has risen almost 5 percent for the quarter.

Coking coal slipped 0.3 percent to 1,185 yuan a tonne and coke gained 0.6 percent to 2,066 yuan. Coke has increased 19 percent in April-June, its largest quarterly rise since January-March last year.

Spot iron ore for delivery to China’s Qingdao port .IO62-CNO=MB dropped 0.2 percent to $64.44 a tonne on Thursday, the lowest since May 28, according to Metal Bulletin. The spot benchmark was down marginally for the quarter. ($1 = 6.6357 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri)

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