UPDATE 1-Asia Rubber -Bridgestone grabs tyre grades; China rumours persist
* STR20 traded at $2.37-$2,38/kg CIF China
* Brigestone buys SIR20 at 104.00-104.75 cents/lb
* Market looks for signs of more China stockpiling
By Lewa Pardomuan
SINGAPORE, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Bridgestone Corp and several trading houses chased Southeast Asia tyre grades this week, with the physical market looking for clues on a possible further round of Chinese stockpiling, dealers said on Thursday.
Top consumer China bought 54,000 tonnes of Thai RSS rubber for its reserves in late October and market participants are speculating there could be more purchases, estimated at between 40,000 and 110,000 tonnes.
But weakness in Shanghai rubber futures suggested local dealers had discounted such a prospect. Rubber inventories in warehouses monitored by the Shanghai Futures Exchange are also at their highest since November 2004.
"We've been hearing reports about the purchase here and there, but we can't confirm it," said a dealer in Singapore, who trades with China. "In the last few rounds, whenever China was stockpiling rubber, we could see Chinese buyers coming into the market. But they are now very quiet."
Last year, China announced it would buy up to 200,000 tonnes of rubber from the domestic market to support prices but dealers said only a fraction was purchased by the end of 2012.
Thai dealers struck deals with Chinese trading houses to sell January STR20 at $2.37 and $2.38 a kg, including freight, but the purchases were not related to stockpiling.
On a free-on-board basis, January STR20 was sold to unspecified buyers at $2.36 a kg late on Wednesday, unchanged from last week. RSS3,was sold at between $2.48 and $2.51 a kg for December/January, little changed from last week.
Bridgestone, the world's largest tyre maker, early this week bought Indonesia's SIR20 rubber at 104.00 U.S. cents a pound ($2.29 a kg) for January and at 104.75 cents ($2.31 a kg) for March.
Late on Wednesday, the same grade was sold to dealers in Singapore at 104 to 104.50 cents a pound for January, higher than 103.75 cents last week.
Dealers in Singapore usually ship rubber to China, which imported 1.86 million tonnes of rubber in the first 10 months of this year, up 6.13 percent year-on-year.
"We can't say there's entirely no business, but activity in the physical market is not a hot as before," said a dealer in Thailand. "As far as the stockpiling is concerned, I heard the second round of buying has happened. But this needs to be verified."
Malaysian SMR20 was traded overnight at $2.40 a kg for January, unchanged from last week.
In the absence of news from China, tyre grades could be influenced by benchmark Tokyo rubber futures , which have been tracking movements in the equity, currency and energy markets.
The benchmark April rubber contract on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange slipped 0.4 yen to settle at 258.3 yen ($2.59) a kg as discouraging economic data from China and weaker oil prices weighed on sentiment.
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