[MANILA] Iron ore is on track to post its biggest weekly gain ever after rapid gains that lifted it to its strongest since June 2015 as a rally in Chinese steel prices burnished appetite for the raw material.
Shanghai steel futures retreated on Friday after a four-day climb that has pushed their year-to-date gain to 60 per cent. Dalian iron ore futures extended their gains by 3 per cent but came off session highs.
The rally in steel prices has fattened profit margins among Chinese producers, boosting buying interest in spot iron ore cargoes.
Iron ore for immediate delivery to China's Tianjin port jumped 6.8 per cent to US$68.70 a tonne on Thursday, the highest since Jan 9, 2015, according to The Steel Index (TSI).
The spot benchmark has gained 19.5 per cent so far for the week, its largest such increase since TSI began compiling data in October 2008. "Steel mills are now also reporting easier access to credit as profitability improves, which may see iron ore demand rise further in the short term," Commonwealth Bank of Australia analyst Vivek Dhar said in a note.
Tighter supplies following plant shutdowns last year, restocking by consumers and a pick-up in seasonal demand have combined to lift steel prices in China, with Shanghai steel futures up 70 per cent from their 2015 trough. "While China's steel consumption has shown signs of improvement, we believe the surge in steel and iron ore prices may be overdone on overly bullish sentiment and short-term tightness," said Dhar.
The most-traded October rebar on the Shanghai Futures Exchange was down 2.2 per cent at 2,648 yuan (S$550.5) a tonne by midday. The contract touched a 19-month high of 2,787 yuan on Thursday.
Rebar surged 6 per cent to hit the exchange-set ceiling on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, the contract rallied nearly 9 per cent to near its adjusted upside limit.
On the Dalian Commodity Exchange, the most-traded iron ore contract was up 3 per cent at 478.50 yuan a tonne after peaking at 493 yuan earlier, its strongest since September 2014. The contract rose by its 6 per cent daily limit on Wednesday and Thursday.