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* May reserves rise $6 bln vs forecast of $5 bln drop
* FX regulator pins change on valuation effect and asset prices
* Sudden jump in U.S.-China trade tensions puts yuan under renewed pressure
* Fresh trade uncertainty comes amid further signs of economic weakness (Adds detail, context)
BEIJING, June 10 (Reuters) - China's foreign exchange reserves unexpectedly bounced back in May after a surprise drop the previous month, suggesting the central bank intervened only lightly to cushion a sharp fall in the yuan currency after U.S.-Sino trade ties soured.
The country's foreign exchange reserves rose $6 billion in May to $3.101 trillion, central bank data showed on Monday.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected reserves to drop $5 billion to $3.090 trillion.
The unexpected rise in May was due to valuation effects and changes in asset prices, the foreign exchange regulator said in a statement accompanying the data.
Sound fundamentals in the Chinese economy will underpin operations in the foreign exchange market and provide a solid basis for the stability of forex reserves, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange said.
Pressure on China's yuan currency intensified last month after an unexpected escalation in Sino-U.S. trade tensions, dashing market hopes that the two sides were nearing a deal. Washington raised tariffs on Chinese goods and threatened even more, and Beijing retaliated with higher levies of its own.
At the same time, unexpectedly weak economic data for April suggested China's economy was still struggling for traction, underlining the need for more stimulus on top of a host of growth boosting measures rolled out since last year. Factory surveys for May pointed to further weakness.
The yuan fell 2.5 percent against the dollar in May, its biggest monthly loss since mid-2018.
However, while the central bank set stronger daily fixings to support the currency, it was not seen intervening to stem the fall until late in the month, when the yuan neared the closely watched 7 to the dollar level. That fueled speculation China may be allowing the currency to weaken as Beijing weighed its options in response to higher U.S. tariffs.
So far, tough capital controls put in place since the last downturn in 2015-16 have kept outflows largely in check over the past year, despite mounting external and domestic pressures on the economy.
"There may be some forex outflow pressure one piece of evidence was that the renminbi fixing rates came in significantly stronger than the forecasts over the past few weeks," analysts at the China International Capital Corporation (CICC) wrote in a note before the May data release.
But they also noted U.S. long-term Treasury yields fell in May, which may lift the value of those bonds that China holds in its reserves.
The value of China's gold reserves also rose to $79.83 billion from $78.35 billion at the end of April, rising to 61.61 million fine troy ounces from 61.1 million ounces in April.
(Reporting by Josh Horwitz, John Ruwitch, Wang Jing and Winni Zhou; Writing by Yawen Chen; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)