* China iron ore imports at 2nd highest on record in September
* Steel exports fall to lowest since February (Updates prices)
By Manolo Serapio Jr
MANILA, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Shanghai rebar steel futures rose to five-week highs on Thursday as hefty Chinese iron ore imports in September suggested firm steel demand in the world’s biggest consumer.
China shipped in 92.99 million tonnes of iron ore in September, up 6.0 percent from the previous month and the second highest on record, customs data showed.
The strong number shows the impact of continued closures among Chinese iron ore mines “but also the relatively strong demand from the housing and infrastructure sector which has boosted steel production”, said Daniel Hynes, commodity strategist at ANZ.
Hynes expects Chinese steel output, which rose for a sixth straight month in August, to increase further amid low inventories.
“It supports our view that demand, at least in the short term, is relatively strong and that steel production will continue to rise,” he said.
The most-traded rebar, a construction steel product, on the Shanghai Futures Exchange touched a session-high of 2,368 yuan ($355) a tonne, its strongest since Sept. 7. It closed at 2,354 yuan, up 0.8 percent.
Rebar futures have risen 40 percent this year.
The most-active iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange climbed 0.8 percent to 427 yuan a tonne.
Firm domestic prices have helped curb China’s steel exports to the lowest since February, offering a reprieve for overseas rivals that had been angered by a flood of cheap Chinese products.
Steel shipments fell 2.3 percent from August to 8.80 million tonnes last month, down for a third month in a row. For the first nine months of the year, exports were still up 2.4 percent at 85.12 million tonnes.
Iron ore for delivery to China’s Tianjin port .IO62-CNI=SI was unchanged at $56.50 a tonne on Wednesday, according to The Steel Index.
$1 = 6.6685 Chinese yuan Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Joseph Radford and Sunil Nair