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SINGAPORE: Dalian and Singapore iron ore futures advanced on Wednesday, reflecting optimism about demand prospects for steel products and raw materials in China, but concerns about the regulatory environment in the world’s top steel producer capped gains.

The most-traded iron ore for May delivery on China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange rose 0.8% to 711 yuan ($112.38) a tonne, extending gains to a third day but moving between losses and gains during morning trade.

On the Singapore Exchange, the steelmaking ingredient’s front-month March contract rose 2.3% to $139.80 a tonne by 0404 GMT.

Despite intensified efforts from Chinese regulators to rein in the iron ore rally this year to curb inflationary pressures, analysts said hopes for increased demand in the near term and the possibility of disruptions in supply from top exporters Australia and Brazil could lend support to prices.

Furthermore, they said steel mill margins in China improved after iron ore prices tumbled last week in the wake of Beijing’s moves to stem suspected market speculation, hoarding and misinformation that purportedly had added fuel to the recent rally.

Improved margins normally encourage mills to ramp up their steel output, thus boosting iron ore demand.

Still, iron ore traders were cautious as the market remained under the watchful eye of Chinese regulators.

“China’s rhetoric on iron ore should become far less fast and furious and more relaxed with the government achieving its ultimate objective - for now,” said Atilla Widnell, managing director at Navigate Commodities in Singapore.

“We would expect authorities to become much more ‘active’ again as and when iron ore prices gravitate towards recent highs.”

Construction steel rebar on the Shanghai Futures Exchange slipped 0.8%, while hot-rolled coil shed 0.5%. Stainless steel fell 3.4%.

Dalian coking coal climbed 1.1%, extending gains to a sixth session, partly supported by concerns over tight supply. Coke gained 0.7%.

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