December 6, 2017 / 2:58 AM / 8 months ago

Shanghai steel retreats after recent rally, but sentiment still upbeat

* Firm demand, tighter supply may keep steel prices firm -CRU

* Rebar, iron ore futures pull back after hitting 3-month peaks

By Manolo Serapio Jr

MANILA, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Chinese steel futures dropped nearly 3 percent on Wednesday after recent sharp gains that lifted prices to their strongest level in three months, although firm demand and tight supply kept investor sentiment upbeat.

The pullback in steel prices also dragged down raw materials iron ore and coking coal, which similarly climbed to three-month peaks earlier this week.

The most actively traded rebar for May delivery on the Shanghai Futures Exchange was down 2.7 percent at 3,941 yuan a tonne by 0244 GMT.

The construction steel product touched 4,104 yuan on Monday, the highest since Sept. 6, and analysts say the strength could last.

Steel demand in China has been stronger than expected despite the seasonal slowdown during winter, with construction activity in eastern and southern parts of the country “quite robust,” said Richard Lu, analyst at CRU in Beijing.

This combined with tighter supply as 28 mills in northern Chinese cities curb production in line with Beijing’s campaign to fight smog over winter, he said.

“There are also proactive closures in cities outside the 28 required, so perhaps in December we may see even less steel production,” said Lu. “Inventories are coming down and market is quite tight.”

Chinese traders’ stocks of rebar stood at 3.03 million tonnes as of Dec. 1, the lowest since at least 2011, according to data tracked by SteelHome consultancy. SH-TOT-RBARINV

Iron ore for May delivery on the Dalian Commodity Exchange fell 1.9 percent to 534.50 yuan a tonne. Coking coal dropped 1.5 percent to 1,357 yuan per tonne.

Iron ore for delivery to China’s Qingdao port .IO62-CNO=MB fell 1.3 percent to $71.77 a tonne on Tuesday, after hitting a nearly three-month high the day before, according to Metal Bulletin.

“Traders continue to snap up any available cargoes, with particular interest in high grade iron ore,” ANZ analysts said in a note.

“Investors in China were a little bit more circumspect, with losses in the base metals sector curbing their enthusiasm for the steelmaking raw material.”

Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Joseph Radford

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