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The Buses Just Stopped Running in China’s Biggest Steel Town

Krystal Chia

(Bloomberg) -- Public buses have been ordered off the roads in Tangshan, the biggest center for steel-making in the world’s top producer. That move, directed by the city government as the China battles the deadly coronavirus outbreak, illustrates just one consequence for raw materials from the crisis.

To help to prevent the disease’s spread, public transport within the city was suspended from Tuesday morning, according to the local administration’s official Weibo account. No date has been set for a resumption of services in the Hebei province city that’s dominated by mills.

Commodities investors are seeking to gauge the impact on raw material consumption and prices from the health emergency that began in Asia’s top economy and has spread worldwide. At present, China’s marking the Lunar New Year, with many factories on go-slow mode after workers returned home. That break has been extended, with markets now shut until Monday.

China accounted for more than 55% of global steel production last month, and Tangshan is a key hub, with output trends tracked by analysts for hints about industry conditions, supply shifts, and environmental curbs. A suspension of bus services may make it harder for remaining staff to report for duty. The city has a population of almost 8 million, according to Xinhua News Agency.

Futures for iron ore, used to make steel, sank as much as 2.6% to $83 a ton in Singapore, and traded at $83.89. That’s down more than 8% this year.

The travel curbs imposed across China in the virus fight are also likely to impede the movement of construction workers. That could affect the pace of building activity, a vital component of nationwide steel demand.

(Updates iron ore futures price in fifth paragraph)

To contact the reporter on this story: Krystal Chia in Singapore at kchia48@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Phoebe Sedgman at psedgman2@bloomberg.net, Jake Lloyd-Smith, Keith Gosman

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