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Steel

COMMODITIES-Red-hot steel rally swells on China bets, powers zinc to 9-year high

* Shanghai rebar steel up nearly 90 pct this year

* Strong property sales, infrastructure projects lift steel demand

* Funds rotating out of fixed income on global growth hopes

* Iron ore eyes breach of $80/T, lead hits five-year peak

By Manolo Serapio Jr and Melanie Burton

MANILA/MELBOURNE, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Chinese steel futures jumped over 6 percent to the highest in 31 months on Monday, as investors raised bets that strong property and infrastructure investment will sustain demand in the world’s top consumer, spurring a similar rally in iron ore and zinc.

The red-hot rally in steel is bound to push iron ore above $80 a tonne for the first time since October 2014, having lifted zinc to a nine-year high.

The rapid rise in ferrous metals as well as zinc and lead also reflect a rotation of funds away from fixed-income and into risky assets backed by optimism over global growth into 2017, analysts say.

Strong property sales in China along with the government’s push for more infrastructure projects via its public-private partnership fund have strengthened steel demand while supply is under control as Beijing intensely pursues capacity cuts, said Daniel Meng, analyst at CLSA in Hong Kong.

“In the first half of 2017, we will continue to have very strong steel prices because property sales remain very strong at least till October and PPP programme is still in early stage and supply side should remain controlled,” said Meng.

Construction steel product rebar on the Shanghai Futures Exchange rose as much as 6.4 percent to 3,238 yuan a tonne, its loftiest since May 2014. Rebar has gained nearly 90 percent this year, on track to end a six-year slide.

China’s real estate investment growth quickened in October to its highest since April 2014, suggesting developers have yet to be hit by measures to curb speculative home purchases. China’s many infrastructure projects include a 247 billion yuan railway plan between Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei, to integrate the three areas into a mega-city.

Iron ore futures also strengthened, with the most-traded contract on the Dalian Commodity Exchange rising as far as 630.50 yuan per tonne, up nearly 6 percent.

That could push the spot iron ore to well above $80 a tonne, traders say, as buyers seek more high-grade material to cope with high coking coal prices. Iron ore for delivery to China's Qingdao port .IO62-CNO=MB climbed 3.5 percent to $79.61 on Friday, just off the two-year high of $79.81 on Nov. 11, according to Metal Bulletin.

Zinc, used to galvanise steel, powered to a nine-year high on the London Metal Exchange and hit a six-year peak on the Shanghai Futures Exchange. Lead was swept up in the rally, charging to a five-year high, after a three-year decline.

While zinc is also benefiting from the better outlook for Chinese infrastructure projects, the rally also reflects increased risk appetite as the world looks to growth next year.

“There’s a big rotation out of fixed income. That’s huge money and it needs to find a home,” said Daniel Morgan at UBS in Sydney.

“The world is looking more like it’s on a growth footing,” he said, citing a Republican-controlled U.S. Congress and a leadership reshuffle in China that may lead to policies supportive of growth.

“For those reasons you’ve probably had a big shift in sentiment towards a growth stance rather than a yield stance,” said Morgan.

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