December 26, 2018 / 7:58 AM / in 6 months

UPDATE 1-Dalian coke futures end at 3-week low on demand concerns

* China will not relax anti-pollution campaign targets

* Steel-making cities tighten anti-pollution rules

* Steel mills starting to rebuild inventories (Updates with closing prices, adds comments)

By Enrico Dela Cruz

MANILA, Dec 26 (Reuters) - Dalian coke futures fell on Wednesday for a third session amid concerns over weak demand for the steelmaking raw material, with Beijing vowing not to relax its anti-pollution campaign that has forced steel mills to reduce output or even halt operations.

Chinese iron ore and rebar contracts, however, edged up on hopes that steel demand will pick up, with mills expected to replenish stocks ahead of the Lunar New Year which falls in early February.

The most-active coke futures for May delivery on the Dalian Commodity Exchange fell as much as 2.2 percent to 1,878 yuan ($272.82) a tonne, before settling at 1,892.5 yuan, their lowest close in three weeks.

Coking coal edged down 0.3 percent to 1,171.5 yuan a tonne.

China will adopt more efficient and targeted measures in its campaign against pollution next year, but will not relax the targets or ease the crackdown on violators, the environment ministry said on Monday night.

The statement comes as steel-making cities have tightened their anti-pollution rules, including the world’s biggest steelmaking city of Tangshan, which has ordered steel mills to shut all their sintering machines, which process iron ore before smelting, for the last 10 days of the year.

Tangshan, located in Hebei province, accounted for more than 10 percent of the country’s steel output last year. At least three other cities in Hebei have issued smog-alerts and asked steel plants to reduce output by 30 percent to improve air quality.

The most traded iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange rose 1.3 percent to settle at 492.5 yuan a tonne, following two days of losses.

The most-active rebar contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange climbed 0.2 percent to end at 3,409 yuan a tonne.

Market sentiment appeared “positive” for both steel and iron ore, said Darren Toh, steel and iron ore data scientist at Tivlon Technologies, a Singapore-based steel and iron ore data analytics company.

“The market in general has stabilized. Steel mills have destocked over the last nine weeks and are starting to build up their inventories from this week ahead of the Chinese New Year,” he said.

Hot rolled coil was down 0.3 percent at 3,368 yuan a tonne.

$1 = 6.8836 Chinese yuan Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Sai Sachin Ravikumar

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