Shanghai rebar steel futures slipped more than 1 percent on Thursday after a rapid rise that pushed them to their highest in more than three years in the previous session.
Hopes of stronger infrastructure spending and property sales in China helped steel prices surge this week, but volatility is also high. As steel futures pulled back on Thursday they undermined iron ore’s early jump to a three-week top.
“The market is not very stable and everybody wants to wait and see how it will go next,” said a Beijing-based trader of iron ore.
The most-active rebar on the Shanghai Futures Exchange was down 1.1 percent at 3,590 yuan ($521) a ton after hitting 3,677 yuan earlier. On Wednesday the construction steel product peaked at 3,692 yuan, its highest since February 2014.
Iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange was up 0.7 percent at 715 yuan a ton, off a session high of 735 yuan, its highest since Feb. 21.
Physical demand in China for high-grade iron ore from top suppliers Australia and Brazil remains firm, said the Beijing-based trader, but not so for lower grade material.
“Because steel mills’ profits are quite okay, they prefer higher-grade products,” she said. “And now some domestic concentrate is coming out so that’s why low-grade cargoes are not popular.”
The spike in spot iron ore to a 30-month high above $90 a ton in February is encouraging Chinese miners shuttered years ago to resume operations, possibly tightening the market for marginal foreign suppliers to China.
Traders say the rising mountain of imported iron ore at China’s ports is comprised mostly of lower grade material.
Port inventory stood at 130 million tons on March 10, down 50,000 tons from the previous week, when they were at their highest since at least 2004, when SteelHome consultancy began tracking the data.
Amid stronger futures this week, iron ore for delivery to China’s Qingdao port climbed 3.2 percent to $90.93 a ton on Wednesday, the highest since March 3, according to Metal Bulletin.
Meanwhile, London copper hit its highest in more than one week on Thursday as the dollar dropped after the U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates as expected but showed no signs of speeding up its pace of tightening.
The Fed raised interest rates on Wednesday for the second time in three months, a move spurred by steady economic growth, strong job gains and confidence that inflation is rising to the its target.
“The Fed’s rate hike is within market expectation but.(its commentary) dampened the expectations that Fed may raise rates for more than three times for 2017,” Argonaut said in a report.
“This weakened the dollar and supported commodity price increases. All metals increased, with copper prices (supported) as supply disruptions at mines in Chile, Peru and Indonesia continue to add to concerns over supply deficits.”
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange had climbed 0.7 percent to $5,905, extending gains from the previous session. Prices earlier touched their strongest since March 6 at $5,929.50 a ton.
Shanghai Futures Exchange copper rose 1.3 percent to 48,040 yuan ($6,969) a ton.
Shanghai Futures Exchange zinc jumped more than 3 percent, before paring some gains, having ridden on the coattails of a steel rally driven by China’s infrastructure push. - Reuters