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Iron ore wobbles on supply risks, China demand worries

Dalian iron ore finished a wobbly trade slightly firmer on Thursday, after miner BHP Group BHP.AX flagged a continuing production weakness, with gains capped by COVID-19 concerns and steel production controls in top steel producer China.

The most-traded September iron ore on China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange DCIOcv1 ended daytime trade 0.3% higher at 904 yuan ($140.24) a tonne, after two days of losses.

On the Singapore Exchange, the steelmaking ingredient’s most-active June contract SZZFM2 was down 0.4% at $150.85 a tonne by 0714 GMT, after swinging back and forth.

BHP, the world’s largest listed miner, fell short of estimates for iron ore production for the March quarter, as a pandemic-related labour crunch weighed on its efforts to boost production in Australia’s Pilbara region.

The miner also warned June-quarter production was expected to be impacted by lingering worker absenteeism, though it remained on track to meet fiscal 2022 costs and volume forecast.

That adds to supply concerns highlighted by the world’s biggest iron ore producer Rio Tinto’s RIO.AX, RIO.L lower-than-expected first-quarter shipments report, and Brazilian miner Vale SA’s VALE3.SA 6% drop in first-quarter iron ore output.

But iron ore traders are, at the same time, faced with worries about demand prospects in China, where economic growth is slowing due to COVID-19 lockdowns and authorities have vowed to keep reducing steel output.

“The market was whipsawed by a confluence of factors, including weaker shipments in 1Q22 from major miners, while the demand outlook is overshadowed by China growth concerns and crude steel production controls,” ING commodities strategists said in a note.

Steel prices on the Shanghai Futures Exchange modestly pulled back after touching two-week highs earlier this week, with construction steel rebar SRBcv1 down 0.8%, while hot-rolled coil SHHCcv1 dropped 1.4%. Stainless steel SHSScv1 shed 0.6%.

Dalian coking coal DJMcv1 climbed 0.6% while coke DCJcv1 gained 0.8%.

China ferrous complex year-to-date performancehttps://tmsnrt.rs/3rGeSHx
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz in Manila; Editing by Uttaresh.V and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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