Iron ore futures have gone into reverse

Mandatory Credit: Craig Prentis /Allsport

After surging by close to 10% in the second half of last week, Chinese iron ore futures have gone into reverse on Monday.

Here’s the scoreboard at the mid-session break on Monday.

SHFE Rebar ¥4,070 , 1.93%
DCE Iron Ore ¥573.50 , -0.69%
DCE Coking Coal ¥1,414.00 , -1.91%
DCE Coke ¥2,309.00 , -2.16%

After finishing Friday’s night session at 592 yuan, the January 2018 iron ore contract on the Dalian Commodities Exchange is currently down 0.69% at 573.5 yuan, well off the high of 598 yuan struck in early trade.

Coking coal and coke futures have also slid into the red, mirroring a pullback in rebar futures, which have also reversed after hitting a more than 4-year high of 4,194 yuan earlier in the session.

Despite the sharp pullback, rebar futures are still up by close to 2% today, assisted by tight supply, strong demand and concerns that safety inspections in China could limit steel output in the months ahead.

“A fire at Benxi Steel forced the closure of its blast furnace and raised concerns that there would be another wave of safety inspection in the industry,” said ANZ’s economics team in a note today.

“Steel mill closures in China have seen the market tighten in recent months, pushing prices higher.”

The divergence between rebar and bulk commodity contracts on Monday could be due to a warning from China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) that unfavourable weather conditions could worsen smog levels in the months ahead.

“Heavy pollution has become a concern that reaches the heart and lungs of the Chinese public, and the Ministry of Environmental Protection will go all out to make it a top priority,” it said in a statement released on Sunday, according to Reuters.

That could add to the risk of even larger capacity cuts across China’s steel sector in the near-term, potentially leading to weaker demand for iron ore and coking coal from mills.

“The northern winter months could prove the catalyst for lower iron ore prices as policymakers strictly limit steel production,” said Vivek Dhar, mining and energy commodities analyst at the Commonwealth Bank, in a note released in late August.
“That should translate through to weaker iron ore demand.”

Earlier this year the Chinese government ordered steel producers in 28 cities to slash output during winter in an attempt to improve air quality, including in the key steel producing area of Tangshan.

In addition to those cuts, the government also called on steel producers to halve output in four northern provinces — Hebei, Shanxi, Shandong, Henan — as well as Beijing and Tianjin, during the peak winter heating months around late November to late February.

Trade in Chinese commodity futures will resume at 3pm AEST.

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