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Written by: Staff
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SINGAPORE, March 27 (Reuters) Tokyo rubber futures extended gains on Monday, underpinning the price of tyre-grade rubber in Southeast Asia as oil hovered near its highest level in seven weeks.

The benchmark August contract <0#JRU:> on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange ended at 253.4 yen per kg ($2.17), up 3.9 yen from previous close and its highest since March 7, Dealers noted deals of Indonesia's tyre-grade SIR20 for May shipments, but physical trading was muted in other producing countries Thailand and Malaysia as consumers watched the Tokyo market.

Tokyo rubber futures set the tone for global rubber prices.

''Being Monday, people just want to see what's going to happen next. I guess gains in other commodities have influenced Tokyo,'' said a dealer in Thailand's southern city of Hat Yai.

''I think China's interest is there but it's a matter of prices,'' said the dealer, referring to the world's largest rubber consumer.

Oil held under Friday's seven-week high, pausing after renewed concerns over Nigerian production had helped drive prices above $64 a barrel and out of a narrow month-long trading range.

U.S. light crude for May delivery was down 6 cents at $64.19 a barrel in by 0639 GMT and off Friday's $64.75 peak, which was the highest since Feb. 7.

Rubber often benefits from high crude oil prices due to a view that expensive oil will encourage a shift to natural rubber from synthetic rubber, a petroleum product, traders said.

Dealers said SIR20 was traded on Monday at 85.75 U.S. cents per pound ($1.89 a kg) free on board Palembang port in South Sumatra for May shipment. Singapore dealers bought the commodity, probably for further shipments to China, they said.

SIR20 was offered at 86.00 FOB Palembang port, up from 85.50 last week.

Dealers said tight supplies in Southeast Asia were likely to support prices, but Indonesia may sell more rubber to buyers such as China and Europe because it offers the cheapest tyre grade.

Wintering is about to start in the northern part of Sumatra, and it is already underway in Peninsular Malaysia and southern Thailand.

During the wintering season, temperatures soar and output falls.

Thai benchmark RSS3 rubber sheet for May shipment rose one U.S.

cent to $2.08 a kg, free on board.Offers for tyre-grade Standard Thai Rubber, or STR20 block, for May shipment was steady at $2.

Malaysia's tyre-grade SMR20 was also steady at $2 free on board for June shipment.

On the Shanghai futures exchange, the most active June rubber contract <0#SNR:> gained 210 yuan per tonne to 20,495 yuan ($2,554) a tonne due to gains in Tokyo.

($1=116.67 yen) ($1=8.0230 yuan) REUTERS SR RN1426

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