Iron ore at one-week low on faltering demand, steel margins

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Iron ore futures declined for a third consecutive session on Monday to hit their lowest level in a week, as some investors unwound long positions to book profits amid contracting demand and steel margins.

The most-traded May iron ore on China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange (DCE) ended daytime trading 1.1% lower at 992.5 yuan ($138.65) a metric ton, the lowest since Jan. 2.

The benchmark February iron ore on the Singapore Exchange was 0.71% lower at $137.6 a ton, as of 0707 GMT, also hitting the lowest since Jan. 2.

“It’s expected hot metal output will hover at a relatively low level with many mills still suffering losses, which will weigh on demand for iron ore,” analysts at Soochow Futures said in a note.

Losses were however capped by expectation that mills will return to the spot market for restocking raw materials to meet production needs over the week-long Lunar New Year holiday break, said analysts.

Iron ore prices are set to remain volatile as the market continues to respond to any policy change from Beijing, with any further price recovery dependent on economic stimulus from China, analysts at ING bank wrote in a note.

“The downside risk for 2024 is if the stimulus effect is weaker than expected,” they said.

Other steelmaking ingredients on the DCE also posted losses, with coking coal DJMcv1 and coke DCJcv1 slipping 4.54% and 2.62%, respectively.

Lower raw material prices pushed steel benchmarks on the Shanghai Futures Exchange down. Rebar SRBcv1 lost 1.43%, hot-rolled coil SHHCcv1 shed 1.34%, wire rod SWRcv1 dipped 0.77% and stainless steel SHSScv1 slid 0.58%.

“Steel fundamentals are weak as even though a mild reduction is seen from the supply side, seasonally sluggish demand and higher production costs squeezed steel margins,” said Kevin Bai, a Beijing-based analyst at consultancy CRU Group.

“We expect weak supply and demand in the steel market to likely last till the Lunar New Year holiday break.”

Source: Reuters