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BEIJING: Benchmark iron ore futures in China dropped on Friday, shedding more than 5% during the trade, as production at steel mills stayed sluggish amid government curbs.

Capacity utilisation rates of blast furnaces at 247 steel firms across China declined for the seventh straight week and stood at 74.8%, as of Friday, down from 75.2% a week earlier, according to Mysteel consultancy.

Benchmark iron ore futures on the Dalian Commodity Exchange, for May delivery, plunged as much as 5.5%, but ended down 2.1% to 613 yuan ($96.23) per tonne. For the week, however, iron ore jumped 6.4%.

Spot prices of iron ore with 62% iron content for delivery to China fell $1 to $104.5 a tonne on Thursday, data compiled by SteelHome consultancy showed.

Prices for other steelmaking ingredients at close recouped early losses, after media outlet Caixin said China’s state planner considers to raise benchmark coal prices for long-term contracts to 700 yuan per tonne in 2022 from 535 yuan.

Dalian coking coal futures rose 1% to 1,986 yuan a tonne at close, after falling more than 6.5% earlier.

Coke prices jumped 2.3% to 2,847 yuan per tonne.

Steel prices on the Shanghai Futures Exchange were mixed. Construction rebar increased 2.1% to 4,384 yuan per tonne and hot-rolled coils rose 1.6% to 4,769 yuan a tonne.

Stainless steel futures on the Shanghai bourse, for January delivery, inched 0.7% lower to 16,860 yuan per tonne.

“Impact from changes to the supply side on steel products prices is weakening,” SinoSteel Futures wrote in a note, referring to output controls during winter.

However, with the real estate market remaining weak, steel prices are not expected to gain significantly, SinoSteel Futures said.

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