Prices of steel and its raw materials rose to multi-week highs in China on Thursday, a rally that traders say may be fueled by speculative investors as demand for steelmaking ingredients looks set to get dented by Beijing’s steel production curbs.
Coking coal futures surged as much as 5 percent and coke jumped nearly 6 percent, while iron ore and steel rose about 3 percent, before prices eased from session highs.
“I think some speculators are getting back into the market to push up prices,” said a coke trader in Tianjin. “These are some short-term traders.”
Demand for iron ore and coking coal would be reduced, the trader said, as northern Chinese cities require their steel mills to cut output over winter, or from this month through March, as part of China’s campaign to fight smog.
The most-active rebar on the Shanghai Futures Exchange was up 2.5 percent at 3,829 yuan ($578) a tonne by 0238 GMT after touching a two-week high of 3,846 yuan earlier.
Iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange climbed as far as 479.50 yuan per tonne, its strongest since Sept. 21, but pared its gains to trade at 474 yuan, up 1.7 percent.
Coking coal was last up 3.9 percent at 1,228 yuan per tonne and coke rose 4.9 percent to 1,928.50 yuan. Coking coal initially touched a seven-week high and coke hit a three-week peak.
In the spot market, however, iron ore prices continued to slip from this week’s highs, amid slow demand.
Iron ore for delivery to China’s Qingdao port .IO62-CNO=MB eased 0.6 percent to $62.26 a tonne on Wednesday, according to Metal Bulletin. The spot benchmark reached a six-week high on Monday.
China’s iron ore imports fell 23 percent in October from a record level in the previous month to 79.49 million tonnes, data on Wednesday showed, and analysts say purchases will remain low in coming months as Beijing enforces the production restrictions over winter.
“With swathes of China’s industrial sector curtailed or on halt for the environmental related outages, steel producers still producing are drawing upon inventories, lessening the need for spot (iron ore) imports,” Barclays analysts said in a note.