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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Iron Ore-Steady with a chance of slipping as China out

Tue Jan 24, 2012
* Vale lifts force majeure on Brazilian shipments
* India's NMDC resumes supply from major mines
* Global steel output growth slows in 2011

SINGAPORE, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Iron ore steadied with trading activity nearly halted as top market China remained shut on Tuesday for the Lunar New Year holiday, blunting any impact from miner Vale's decision to lift a force majeure on Brazilian shipments.

Vale, the world's No. 1 iron ore producer, said on Monday it has resumed mining and export operations after rains eased in southeastern Brazil.

Vale earlier this month declared force majeure on iron ore shipments from Brazil, a legal clause that allows a company to break contractual obligations, because of heavy rains that cut its output by around 2 million tonnes.

Iron ore with 62 percent iron content .IO62-CNI=SI was unchanged at $139.80 a tonne on Monday, according to Steel Index.

There are hardly any deals in the spot market with the Chinese away for the holiday and chances are prices may slip marginally, said Dhruv Goel, managing director at iron ore trading firm SteelMint in India's eastern Orissa state.

But Goel said Chinese demand for lower grade Indian iron ore has improved recently and he expects it to continue after the holiday.

"Chinese buyers are interested in buying low grade from India, as cargoes from Australia and Brazil are generally high grade," he said.

India's biggest iron ore miner, NMDC Ltd, has resumed operations in the central state of Chhattisgarh, which accounts for two-thirds of its annual ouput of 25 million tonnes, after protests disrupted railway movements for 10 days.

Local protests had forced NMDC to halt production and exports of iron ore from the mines. The protest was called off after the federal government agreed to improve the overall rail network in the Bastar region, a predominently tribal area that has roughly a fifth of India's iron ore deposits.

Reflecting a slump in Chinese buying, the Baltic Exchange's main sea freight index, which tracks rates to ship dry commodities, fell to its lowest in more than three years on Monday.

Expected slower growth in China's steel production this year could similarly curb its demand for raw material iron ore.

China's crude steel output rose 8.9 percent to around 683 million tonnes in 2011, versus a 9.3 percent clip in 2010. A Reuters poll in mid-December showed the country's steel output may reach 728 million tonnes this year, 6.5 percent higher than 2011.

Globally, steel production rose 6.8 percent to 1.527 billion tonnes in 2011, less than half the 15 percent increase in 2010, data from the World Steel Association showed on Monday.

(sourced Reuters)

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