* China iron ore imports drop to 4-month low in Oct
* BHP to meet supply commitments after iron ore train incident
* China Oct exports, imports growth outpace expectations (Adds China trade data)
By Manolo Serapio Jr
MANILA, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Shanghai rebar steel futures rebounded on Thursday as investors bought back the contract after falling to a 3-1/2-month low, with iron ore prices jumping more than 2 percent.
Helping the turnaround sentiment, China posted strong export and import growth in October, suggesting Beijing’s measures to support the cooling economy may be slowly paying off.
Expectations of more supply as mills ramp up output amid more lenient production curbs in winter had pushed steel prices lower earlier in the session.
Data from the China Iron and Steel Association showed that average daily crude steel production at its member mills stood at 1.97 million tonnes over Oct. 1-20, nearly matching September’s 1.98 million tonnes.
China’s winter heating season typically runs from mid-November through mid-March and the central government, as part of its anti-smog campaign, has allowed cities and provinces to set their own output restrictions this year, scrapping last season’s blanket curbs.
After falling as much as 1.5 percent to 3,878 yuan a tonne - the lowest since July 27 - the most-active January rebar on the Shanghai Futures Exchange closed up 1.2 percent at 3,986 yuan.
Mills are raising steel output while profits remain strong, pushing more supply into the market, said an iron ore trader in Shanghai.
“Some market players are already looking at a weaker steel market next year,” he said.
Iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange climbed 2.2 percent to 520 yuan a tonne.
Global miner BHP Billiton said it intends to meet its contractual supply commitments to its customers after it forcibly derailed a runaway iron ore train in Western Australia.
BHP suspended all of its rail operations after the incident on Monday but expects to restore partial rail operations in about a week.
Spot iron ore for delivery to China SH-CCN-IRNOR62 was steady at $75.90 a tonne on Wednesday, data published by SteelHome consultancy showed. SH-CCN-IRNOR62
China’s imports of the steelmaking ingredient fell to a four-month low of 88.4 million tonnes in October, reflecting slower shipments from major suppliers even as Chinese demand remained strong ahead of winter production curbs.
“Another reason may be the yuan depreciation,” said CRU analyst Richard Lu. “A lot of iron ore buyers shifted to port stocks from seaborne because it’s much cheaper for them to buy in yuan than in U.S. dollars.”
Coke futures eased 0.6 percent to 2,371.50 yuan a tonne and coking coal was little changed at 1,358 yuan. ($1 = 6.9312 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier and Rashmi Aich)