Iron ore soars to contract high as Australian shipments drop

* Dalian iron ore rises 2.6%, spot hits 2-month high

* Singapore iron ore extends rally into fourth session

* Australia shipments lowest since Sept - Refinitiv data

MANILA, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Benchmark Dalian and Singapore iron ore futures jumped to fresh contract highs on Thursday, driven by concerns about supply of the steelmaking raw material from Australia and optimism around demand as steel prices picked up in China.

Weekly iron ore shipments to China from top supplier Australia fell to 12 million tonnes last week, the lowest in more than two months, based on ports data available on Refinitiv Eikon. ORE-AUCN-TOT

January iron ore, the benchmark contract on the Dalian Commodity Exchange, rose as much as 2.6% to 877.50 yuan ($133.68) a tonne, extending gains into a fourth straight session.

Iron ore’s most-active December contract on the Singapore Exchange climbed 0.9% to $124.10 a tonne, also rising for a fourth day.

Resilient iron ore demand from China, the world’s top steel producer, and “signs that the rise in exports from Australia was easing” buoyed market sentiment, said Daniel Hynes, senior commodity strategist at ANZ.

Spot iron ore prices also surpassed $120 a tonne, with the benchmark 62% material touching $126.50 a tonne on Wednesday, according to SteelHome consultancy, the highest since Sept. 15. SH-CCN-IRNOR62

“Strong data from (China’s) property sector continues to bolster expectations that margins at steel mills will remain elevated and therefore supportive for iron ore demand,” said Wenyu Yao, senior commodities strategist at ING.

Real estate investment in China grew 12.7% in October from a year ago, the fastest pace since July 2018, while property sales by floor area rose a solid 15.3%, the highest in over three years. New construction starts expanded 3.5%.

Steel futures also scaled contract highs, with rebar on the Shanghai Futures Exchange climbing 1.3% and hot-rolled coil jumping 1.1%. Stainless steel rose 1.5%.

Dalian coking coal dipped 0.5% and coke slipped 0.1%. ($1 = 6.5664 yuan) (Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; editing by Uttaresh.V)