November 6, 2019 / 4:16 AM / 11 days ago

Shanghai stainless steel struggles below 15,000 yuan on supply, demand worries

* Stainless steel down 4.6% since Sept. 25 debut

* Iron ore jumps 1.9% after recent falls

* Coking coal, coke futures extend gains

By Enrico Dela Cruz

MANILA, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Shanghai stainless steel futures edged lower in early trade on Wednesday, struggling below the 15,000 yuan per tonne level, as concerns persisted over high inventory and weak demand in top producer China.

The front-month February 2020 stainless steel contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange slipped as much as 0.4% to 14,865 yuan ($2,125.00) a tonne.

The benchmark contract had closed below 15,000 yuan in the last three sessions and was last down 4.6% from its base price of 15,585 yuan set when it began trading on Sept. 25.

“Stainless steel inventory in China continued to hover at record-high level,” said Helen Lau, a metals and mining analyst at Argonaut Securities.

With plentiful supply and weak demand, she said many stainless steel producers were making losses, except those with integrated nickel pig iron (NPI) plants.

Chinese stainless steel producers mainly use NPI, a low-grade ferronickel and cheaper alternative to pure nickel, as feedstock.

“Further weakness in stainless steel prices will lead to more producers halting production,” Lau said. “Reduced stainless steel production and price consolidations are headwinds for nickel prices.”

In contrast, the rest of China’s ferrous metals complex rose, with Shanghai construction steel rebar jumping 1.9%, extending this week’s gains as China’s policymakers have ratcheted up support for the slowing economy.

FUNDAMENTALS

* Shanghai hot-rolled steel coil futures rose 1.5%.

* The most-traded iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange gained 1.9%, recovering from recent losses due to easing concerns over supply, despite weakening spot prices.

* Benchmark spot 62% iron ore SH-CCN-IRNOR62 slumped to $83.50 a tonne on Tuesday, SteelHome consultancy data showed, closing in on levels seen before the Jan. 25 mine tailings dam burst in Brazil, which sparked a five-month rally in prices.

* Dalian coking coal also stretched gains, up 1.1%, amid market chatter about China imposing fresh import curbs on the steelmaking raw material.

* Coke, another key steel ingredient which is produced from coking coal, jumped 1.5%.

* China’s seaborne coal imports slumped 19% in October from September, but the world’s top buyer is still on track to record an unwanted annual increase, says Reuters columnist Clyde Russel, citing vessel-tracking and port data compiled by Refinitiv.

$1 = 6.9953 yuan Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu

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