Prices of steelmaking raw materials in China fell on Friday, with both coke and coking coal posting their worst week since December, pressured by worries over demand for steel as the nation’s economic growth cools further.
Steel futures also ended the choppy trade lower after data on Friday showed China’s exports tumbled the most in three years in February, while imports fell for a third straight month, pointing to a further slowdown in the economy.
The weak trade data added to concerns of a market already edgy about steel production curbs in China, aimed at tackling air pollution, and the outcome of U.S.-Sino trade talks.
“Market participants…are liquidating their positions from the ferrous complex” as doubts remain whether China’s economic stimulus measures could avert a sharper slowdown, said Darren Toh of Singapore-based steel and iron ore data analytics company Tivlon Technologies.
The most-traded coking coal on the Dalian Commodity Exchange fell for a fifth straight day, losing as much as 2.9 percent to 1,233.5 yuan ($183.49) a tonne, before ending at 1,237 yuan.
Coke extended its losses into a fourth day, falling as much as 2.7 percent to 2,018 yuan a tonne, before closing at 2,023.5 yuan.
Dalian iron ore was down 0.6 percent at 613 yuan a tonne.
China’s iron ore imports fell to a 10-month low in February, customs data showed on Friday, curbed by a slowdown in trade during a week-long national holiday and a steep run-up in prices.
Iron ore demand at Chinese steel mills may wane, with the country’s top steelmaking region of Hebei setting capacity reductions in 2019 and 2020 as it seeks to improve air quality.
The top steelmaking city of Tangshan, meanwhile, has indefinitely extended the highest level of smog alert, in place since March 1, forcing mills to cut output by 40 percent to 70 percent or even stop production.
The most-active rebar contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange edged down 0.l percent to 3,772 yuan a tonne, while hot rolled coil slipped 0.5 percent to 3,712 yuan.
“The market has become jittery again while waiting for the conclusion of the (U.S.-China) trade talks,” said analyst Helen Lau of Argonaut Securities.
“Some of the gains that we’ve seen this year were driven by progress in the trade talks but there’s still uncertainty there, so now we’re seeing some profit-taking,” she said.
Yaang Pipe Industry Co., Limited (www.yaang.com)