UPDATE 1-China steam coal futures climb in debut; miners keen
* Futures rise as much as 2.2 pct in brisk trade
* Offers miners, traders access to hedging tool
* Regulators also considering allowing trade in crude oil futures
(Adds analyst comment, background)
SHANGHAI, Sept 26 (Reuters) - China's first steam coal futures climbed over 2 percent in their trading debut on Thursday in brisk volumes, as investors in the world's top importer of the resource welcomed the chance to access the hedging tool.
The most-active January steam coal contract on the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange rose as much as 2.2 percent in early trade to 531.6 yuan ($86.86) per tonne, from a base price set at 520 yuan.
It was up 1.6 percent at 0330 GMT, with over 160,000 lots traded, making it the bourse's fourth-most traded contract.
The rollout of China's first steam coal contract will give Beijing greater influence over global coal prices, analysts said, and the moves come as the country looks to gradually open up its financial sector in a drive to make economic growth more consumption-oriented.
China is the world's top coal consumer and producer, churning out 3.7 billion tonnes of the resource last year. Thermal coal production stood at 2.74 billion tonnes in 2012 and accounts for nearly 80 percent of total power generation in the country.
The launch of the steam coal futures contract offers miners and traders an important hedging tool. Sources at futures brokerages, which have been reaching out to miners to offer hedging services, said the response had been positive.
"Since the contract is still very new, most of the trading activity will initially be dominated by retail investors," said Liu Yi, an analyst at Galaxy Futures.
"But we're in touch with many big miners and power companies and they're all enthusiastic about the contract and are now learning more about ways to hedge."
A source at a foreign bank with a licence to trade on China's commodities exchanges also said the firm planned to trade in the contract.
China's coal prices have been steadily declining since December, dropping by 16 percent so far this year due to overcapacity and slowing economic growth.
Falling prices, which sunk to fresh four-year lows of 531 yuan a tonne this week, have dragged many miners into losses and forced some high-cost mines to cut production.
Investors are required to put up a minimum 5 percent of the value of the new contracts, while the exchange has set each lot size at 200 tonnes and its circuit breakers at 8 percent above and below the opening price on a given day.
Regulators are also considering allowing trade in futures of crude oil, iron alloys and a slew of agricultural products.
The Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange has 12 other futures contracts, including wheat, sugar, methanol and cotton.
($1 = 6.1200 Chinese yuan)
(Editing by Joseph Radford)