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MANILA: Dalian and Singapore iron ore futures fell on Thursday, hit by worries about Covid -19 curbs in China, but Beijing’s assurance that there is still policy space to cope with challenges facing the world’s top steel producer calmed traders.

Iron ore’s most-traded September contract on China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange dropped as much as 4.8% to 777 yuan ($114.94) a tonne, before the sell-off eased.

By 0315 GMT, the benchmark contract was down just 1.1% at 807.50 yuan. On the Singapore Exchange, the steelmaking ingredient’s most-active June contract was down 0.3% at $124.80 a tonne, after earlier tumbling as much as 4.3% to $119.80.

China’s tough “zero-Covid” policy could mean lockdowns will continue as more Covid clusters are found, which also means disruptions to steel mills’ operations and supply chains.

“Shanghai is poised to start a very gradual unwinding of its two-month lockdown amid a fall in Covid -19 cases. That confidence could quickly evaporate if rising cases in Beijing lead to further restrictions there,” said Daniel Hynes, senior commodity strategist at ANZ. Some districts of Beijing and Tianjin remained under lockdown, and more may be put in isolation, analysts at ING said in a note.

“The port of Tianjin is important for hard commodity trade. Though we have not seen disruption in Tianjin’s port yet, this could become an issue if stricter social distancing measures are applied,” the ING analysts said. Soothing frayed nerves, Premier Li Keqiang was quoted by state media on Wednesday as saying that China has policy room to cope with challenges, as the downward pressure on China’s economy increases. China could cut a benchmark lending rate on Friday, as some analysts predict.

Construction steel rebar on the Shanghai Futures Exchange fell 1.4%, while hot-rolled coil dropped 1.2%. Stainless steel was flat.

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