METALS-Copper slips to two-week low, Chinese buying seen subdued
* China GDP numbers on focus later this week
* Rio Tinto sees aluminium production drop 10 pct for 2012
* Coming Up: U.S. PPI for Dec at 1330 GMT
LONDON, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Copper prices fell on Tuesday to a two-week low, dragged down by a slight rebound in the dollar against the euro, with uncertainty about the outlook for demand from top consumer China also weighing on prices. Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange slipped to a two-week low at $7,968 a tonne at 1013 GMT, down 0.4 from a close of $8,000 on Monday in a third straight session of falls. The dollar bounced against the euro, recovering from an 11-month low hit after U.S. Federal Chairman Ben Bernanke urged U.S. lawmakers to lift the country's borrowing limit to avoid a potentially disastrous debt default. A stronger dollar makes commodities priced in the U.S. unit more expensive for holders of other currencies. The market's focus remains on the outlook for demand from top consumer China, with Chinese buying likely to remain subdued as businesses wind down ahead of the Lunar new Year holiday in February. China accounts for as much as 40 percent of global copper demand. "The Chinese have been pretty absent from the market and I think that is sending a signal that they're not participating at these levels and they don't need to either because stock levels are comfortable in China for most of the base metals," said Gayle Berry, analyst at Barclays. "They're probably going to stay absent from the market until the Chinese New Year and we are not likely to see any big buying sprees ahead of that. That ultimately is what is being a drag on markets." The metal used in power and construction, which gained more than 4 percent in 2012, hit its highest level in more than two months earlier in January following a deal by U.S lawmakers to avoid a "fiscal cliff" of spending cuts and tax increases. But prices have since retreated on expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve may rein in easing measures sooner than expected, and caution ahead of upcoming U.S. debt ceiling negotiations.
DATA EYED The market will also closely watch China's economic growth figure due later this week, which is expected to have quickened to 7.8 percent in the fourth quarter according to a Reuters poll. "We think commodity prices are likely to rise further in the coming days. This week's release of Chinese GDP and industrial production data are key event risks due on Friday," said Credit Suisse in a note. In industry news, global miner Rio Tinto , one of the world's top three aluminium makers, said it produced 10 percent less primary aluminium in 2012 versus 2011 due to a labour dispute. Its bauxite and alumina production, both raw materials for aluminium, however, grew 11 percent and 12 percent respectively, driven by increased third party demand, it said in its production report. Three-month aluminium fell to $2,035.50 from Monday's close of $2,052. Soldering metal tin was at $24,800 from Monday's close of $24,750 while battery material lead slipped to $2,271 from $2,295 a tonne. Stainless-steel ingredient nickel fell to $17,243 from $17,255 while zinc, used in galvanizing, was at $1,985.75 from a last bid of $1,996 on Monday.
Metal Prices at 1017 GMT Comex copper in cents/lb, LME prices in $/T and SHFE prices in yuan/T
Metal Last Change Pct Move End 2012 Ytd Pct
COMEX Cu 362.25 -0.35 -0.10 365.25 -0.82 LME Alum 2033.25 -18.75 -0.91 2073.00 -1.92 LME Cu 7969.00 -31.00 -0.39 7931.00 0.48 LME Lead 2267.75 -27.25 -1.19 2330.00 -2.67 LME Nickel 17234.00 -21.00 -0.12 17060.00 1.02 LME Tin 24752.00 2.00 +0.01 23400.00 5.78 LME Zinc 1985.00 -30.00 -1.49 2080.00 -4.57 SHFE Alu 15130.00 -105.00 -0.69 15435.00 -1.98 SHFE Cu* 57580.00 -740.00 -1.27 57690.00 -0.19 SHFE Zin 15095.00 -275.00 -1.79 15625.00 -3.39