* China June rare earth exports up 9% from May at 3,966 T
* H1 exports at 23,232 tonnes, down 11.3% year-on-year
* U.S. has called China’s bluff over export restrictions - analyst (Adds background, analyst comment)
BEIJING, July 12 (Reuters) - China’s rare earth exports rose by 9% in June from May, customs data showed on Friday, snapping two months of declines that had stoked worries over supply from the world’s top producer of the materials amid the Sino-U.S. trade dispute.
Exports of the group of 17 chemical elements used in everything from high-tech consumer electronics to military equipment came in at 3,966 tonnes last month, according to General Administration of Customs data.
That was up from 3,640 tonnes in May, which was down sharply from April. June’s figure was down 27.3% from a revised figure of 5,455 tonnes for June last year.
For the first half of 2019, exports totalled 23,232 tonnes, down 11.3% year-on-year, the data showed.
China has raised the prospect of limiting rare earth exports to the United States in retaliation for U.S. tariffs levied in a tit-for-tat trade war between the two countries, but has not publicly announced any restrictions.
“The lack of a pronounced increase in H1 (exports) tells us the U.S. called China’s bluff and held firm on its belief that supplies will keep coming,” said Ryan Castilloux, managing director of consultancy Adamas Intelligence.
“It also indicates that global buyers are confident prices will not spike outside their comfort zones otherwise we would have expected to see them stocking up as the recent price rally kicked off in March,” he added.
China’s rare earth export volumes tend to fluctuate considerably, having been as high as 5,421 tonnes as recently as December and as low as 2,886 tonnes in February.
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Reporting by Tom Daly; editing by Richard Pullin