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MANILA: Dalian and Singapore iron ore futures dipped on Friday, with regulators in China seeking to curb exuberance as expectations of stronger demand for the steel making ingredient drove prices higher through the week.

Major iron ore producers such as BHP Group and Rio Tinto said this week they have seen signs of a rebound in Chinese demand after Beijing dismantled COVID-19 restrictions and rolled out supportive measures for struggling property developers.

A brightening outlook for top steel producer China had lifted the Dalian and Singapore iron ore benchmarks past the $120-$130 trading range they had been confined to for weeks. Spot prices were also higher this week as Chinese steel mills further ramped up their production.

“Steel mills were said to be preparing for a busier construction season in the next quarter with steel output up 6% in early February,” Westpac analysts said in a note.

The blast furnace capacity utilization rate among 247 Chinese steel mills under Mysteel’s regular survey climbed for the seventh consecutive week to 86.97% over Feb. 17-23, up by 1.22 percentage points on week, the industry information and consultancy provider reported.

But prices have pulled back a bit following the Dalian Commodity Exchange’s (DCE) move to curb speculative activity. The most-traded May iron ore on the DCE ended morning trade 0.7% lower at 905.50 yuan ($130.81) a tonne. It was, however, on track for a weekly gain of more than 2%. On the Singapore Exchange, benchmark March iron ore was trading at $128.35 a tonne, as of 0356 GMT, down 1.2% from Thursday but 1.4% firmer this week.

Steel benchmarks and other Dalian steelmaking inputs were also subdued. Rebar on the Shanghai Futures Exchange fell 1.2%, hot-rolled coil shed 0.6%, wire rod dropped 0.5%, and stainless steel lost 0.7%. Coking coal was flat while coke slipped 0.1%.

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