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Iron ore muted as China regulatory risks spur caution

Dalian and Singapore iron ore futures rose slightly on Friday as concerns over brewing banking turmoil eased, though a potential limit on steel production in China this year capped further gains.

The most-traded May iron ore on China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange DCIOcv1 ended daytime trade 0.4% higher at 915 yuan ($133.10) a tonne. It was, however, headed for its first weekly loss in six weeks, having fallen more than 2% from last week.

On the Singapore Exchange, the steelmaking ingredient’s benchmark April contract SZZFJ3 was up 0.5% at $129.85 a tonne, as of 0745 GMT. It hit $126.85 a tonne earlier in the session, its weakest since March 9.

“The full weight of (Chinese regulators’) intervention in the iron ore market is becoming more obvious,” Westpac analysts said in a note.

Top steel producer China will again cut annual crude steel production in 2023, making it the third consecutive year that the government has mandated an output limit in line with its emission reduction programme, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday.

The report, which is yet to be officially confirmed, comes as Chinese regulators have repeatedly warned against excessive price speculation on iron ore and hoarding.

Prices of the steelmaking ingredient have soared since late last year as China’s move to discard its zero-COVID policy and roll out supportive measures for the struggling domestic property developers brightened demand prospects for steel.

Overall sentiment also improved as financial markets rebounded following Thursday’s risk aversion triggered by a brewing banking crisis.

Rebar on the Shanghai Futures Exchange edged up 0.2% following a two-day correction, having scaled a nine-month high on Tuesday as China has entered its peak spring construction season.

Hot-rolled coil added 0.1%, wire rod dipped 0.6%, and stainless steel was virtually flat.

On the Dalian exchange, coking coal slipped 0.4%, while coke was little changed.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Subhranshu Sahu)

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