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BEIJING: Iron ore futures rose on Thursday after comments from officials in top consumer China revived hopes for more stimulus measures, although weak fundamentals limited price upside room for the key steelmaking ingredient.

The most-traded May iron ore contract on China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange (DCE) ended daytime trade 1.83% higher at 890 yuan ($123.64) a metric ton. The benchmark April iron ore on the Singapore Exchange was 0.88% higher at $116.3 a ton, as of 0711 GMT. The head of China’s state planner said that the government’s 5% economic growth target this year is achievable, while the governor of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said there was still room for cutting banks’ reserve ratio requirement (RRR). “PBOC will deliver a 25bp (basis point) RRR cut in Q2 and another 25bp RRR cut in Q4 to support liquidity and ensure smooth issuance of government bonds,” Goldman Sachs analysts said. “The PBOC may prefer to keep rates unchanged before the Fed (Federal Reserve) delivers its first rate cut on the back of capital outflow pressures and depreciation concerns,” they added.

Capping ore price gains is the remaining lukewarm demand from steelmakers amid slow downstream demand recovery, said analysts. Daily hot metal output is expected to hover between 2.27 and 2.29 million tons in March, lower than around 2.4 million tons over the same period in 2023, analysts at consultancy Mysteel said.

“Hot metal output stayed low while shipments were high, so it’s hard to see a strong price rebound in the near term,” First Futures analysts said. China’s iron ore imports in the first two months of 2024 climbed 8.1% to 209.45 million metric tons, a record high for the two-month period, customs data showed on Thursday.

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