July 29, 2019 / 7:56 AM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-Shanghai steel hits 5-wk low as Tangshan output curbs set to end

* Tangshan’s intensified anti-smog measures seen lifted by Aug. 1

* China’s steel minnows sidestep pollution rules to boost output

* China’s Australian coking coal imports double in June from May

* Imported iron ore stockpiles at China ports climb for 2nd week (Adds milestones, more comments, closing prices, and graphic)

By Enrico Dela Cruz

MANILA, July 29 (Reuters) - Steel futures in China slumped to their lowest in five weeks on Monday ahead of the lifting of intensified production restrictions in the nation’s top steelmaking city of Tangshan.

The most-active construction steel rebar contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange, with October expiry, fell 1.9% to 3,877 yuan ($562.77) a tonne, its weakest finish since June 21.

Hot-rolled steel, used in cars and home appliances, dropped 1.8% to 3,797 yuan, also the lowest close since June 21.

Stepped-up anti-pollution measures in Tangshan, which require steel mills to curb their sintering operations by 20% up to 70% starting July 21, are in place only until July 31.

Steel production in China looks set to remain brisk also because authorities have ruled out setting blanket output restrictions on heavy industry for the coming winter, including steel mills, despite the government’s campaign to curb pollution.

Any production limits for steel mills during winter will be set by local governments depending on their emissions, the environment ministry said on Friday.

“Markets perceive provincial restrictions to be looser than federal ones, although that does not usually play out since we have seen provincial authorities as being equally as strict,” said Edward Meir, independent commodity consultant at brokerage INTL FCStone in London.

China’s decision comes in the wake of complaints by some local governments and manufacturers that production cuts have hampered industrial operations and dragged on local economic growth.

China, the world’s biggest steel producer and consumer, continues to ramp up output, with the small mills seen taking advantage of lax environmental enforcement to outdo bigger rivals.

Yet some analysts are not too optimistic about prospects for stimulus-driven steel demand in China.

“We don’t expect the additional stimulus measures to alter demand for commodities, such as steel and copper, greatly,” said analysts at ANZ Research in a note, citing funding constraints as a key issue.

FUNDAMENTALS

* The most-traded iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange , for January 2020 delivery, closed 0.7% higher at 750.50 yuan a tonne, extending gains for a third consecutive session.

* Benchmark spot 62% iron ore for delivery to China SH-CCN-IRNOR62 was up 1.3% on Friday at $117.50 a tonne, according to data tracked by SteelHome consultancy.

* The inventory of imported iron ore at China’s ports climbed for a second straight week, hitting 119.25 million tonnes as of July 26, SteelHome data showed. SH-TOT-IRONINV

* Other inputs for steelmaking were lower, with coking coal down 0.5% while coke slipped 0.3%.

* China’s imports of Australian coking coal, doubled in June from a month earlier despite persistent restrictions at Chinese ports, official data showed.

* China’s foreign exchange regulator said on Sunday it will relax currency exchange approval rules for the commodities futures market.

* For the top stories metals and other news, click or

($1 = 6.8891 yuan)

Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips & Uttaresh.V

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