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UPDATE 1-China's top ports handle more containers in Sept

(Adds details on Ningbo Port, analyst's comments)

SHANGHAI, Oct 10 (Reuters) - China's leading ports saw theircontainer volumes rise strongly in September from a yearearlier, offering first clues that overall trade in the world'ssecond-largest economy may have picked up last month.

The rebound could bode well for China's trade figures inSeptember, which will be released on Saturday. Economists polledby Reuters expect annual export growth to reach 5 percent inSeptember, up from 2.7 percent in August, with imports returningto growth after contracting in August.

Shanghai Port, the world's busiest container port, saw itscontainer volume rise 5.6 percent in September from a yearearlier, bouncing from falls in the previous two months, datafrom the port operator showed.

Ningbo Port, China's third largest in terms of throughput,saw its container volume in September jump 20 percent from yearago, the port operator said on Monday. Container throughput rosearound 6 percent in August.

Still, it is premature to say if the upswing in containerhandling signals a turnaround in the broader economy, as theweek long National Holiday from October 1-7th would haveprompted some shippers to rush their cargoes in to avoidcongestion.

"I don't think this necessarily means that the broadereconomy is turning around. This shows that trade is expanding,but this may be due to factors such as government investment intransportation and other programs to influence demand," said MaXiaoping, an economist at HSBC.

"Higher consumption during the national holiday is also afactor. That's one aspect of it."

With the euro zone mired in a debt crisis and data from theU.S. showing a slower-than-expected recovery, investors arekeenly awaiting data from China, which will unveil its GDPfigures next week, for hints on how its economy is faring.

Economists polled by Reuters expect China's growth in theJuly-September quarter to have slowed to 7.4 percent, down from7.6 percent in the second and would be the slowest expansionsince the depths of the global financial crisis.

Container throughput at Shanghai reached 2.91 milliontwenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), up from 2.61 million inAugust. The year-on-year increase for the month compared with afall of 7.1 percent in August.

Cargo volumes rose 10 percent on the year to 44.41 milliontonnes.

Ningbo Port's container throughput reached 1.59 milliontwenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), versus 1.39 million TEUs inAugust.

(Reporting by Shanghai and Beijing Newsroom; Editing by JasonSubler and Anand Basu)

((fayen.wong@thomsonreuters.com)(+86 21 6104 1779)(ReutersMessaging: fayen.wong.thomsonreuters.net))

Keywords: CHINA PORT/VOLUME

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