UPDATE 1-Asian rubber grades sold at record highs; China shy

* RSS3, SIR20, SMR20 traded at record

* Rains persist, China use up domestic stocks (Adds quotes, details)

SINGAPORE, Dec 9 (Reuters ) - Thai, Indonesian and Malaysian rubber grades changed hands at record highs as tyre makers rushed to stock up on fears that prices would rise further after bad weather disrupted supply in main producing countries, dealers said on Thursday.

Japan’s largest tyre maker Bridgestone Corp bought Thai RSS3 grade at $4.52 a kg in deals done late on Wednesday. Indonesia’s SIR20 was sold to unspecified buyers at 203 U.S. cents a pound and Malaysian SMR20 was traded at $4.50 a kg.

“Rains are still around and producers seem to be cautious,” said a dealer in Thailand’s southern city of Hat Hai.

“Some producers are quoting very high prices because they don’t want to sell. They have problems getting raw material. Somebody quotes rubber at $4.60 because they know no-one can pay that price.”

Natural rubber prices have struck record highs several times due to tight supply blamed on a combination of heavy rains and dry weather in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, which helped spur rallies in Tokyo and Shanghai rubber futures.

Benchmark RSS3 prices from top producer Thailand have gone up more than 50 percent so far this year. For details on physical prices on Thursday, click [ID:nL3E6N906D]

“The rubber markets are seemingly intent on unilaterally pursuing a single, upward direction,” said a dealer in Jakarta.

“Heavy rains in Thailand are doing enough to disrupt collection or even to prevent it entirely in some areas where waters stand knee-deep.”

Rubber production in Thailand will fall by about 30,000 tonnes a year for the next six years because of damage from floods, an agriculture official said recently. [ID:nSGE6AI07V]

Heavy rain caused severe flooding and landslides that not only destroyed some trees but disrupted tapping, cutting off roads and forcing exporters to delay shipment for weeks.

Looking ahead, dealers expected steady demand from tyre makers, but top consumer China was likely stay on the sidelines because of high prices.

“It’s still cheaper for China to buy rubber already in bonded warehouses. They are talking about $4.42 a kg for SIR20,” said a dealer in Singapore.

“Actually some people who have sold rubber to China are buying it back. They can easily sell it at much better prices in the international market,” he added.

Rubber inventories in warehouses monitored by the Shanghai Futures Exchange fell 10.7 percent to 55,346 tonnes, the exchange said n Friday, suggesting that tyre makers turned to domestic supply.

Editing by Ed Lane