METALS-Copper edges up on robust US factory data; caution on China
* Japan Pacific, miners agree on 10 pct rise in TC/RCs for 2013 China 4Q GDP, December industrial output, retail sales due Friday
* Coming up; U.S. Housing starts Dec at 1330 GMT
(Adds analyst comment, updates prices) SINGAPORE, Jan 17 (Reuters) - London copper inched up on Thursday following a four-session losing streak, with robust U.S. factory data bolstering the outlook for demand, but caution ahead of Chinese growth data later this week tempered gains. The U.S. economy ended 2012 on a surprisingly sound note as factory output climbed and low inflation lifted consumers' purchasing power, signs the economy may be able to weather the higher tax bills that rang in the new year. Economic activity across the United States expanded at either a moderate or modest pace in recent weeks with consumer spending picking up, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday, suggesting little change in terms of the recovery's strength.
Still, traders were wary of stocking up on copper ahead of a slew of figures from China, including its fourth-quarter gross domestic product on Friday, that are expected to shine a light on the strength of its economic recovery. "There seems to be a bit more confidence in the economic outlook which has clearly favoured some relief in metals prices," said analyst Stefan Graber of Credit Suisse in Singapore. "The fact that (prices) are not really moving higher is simply a link to the observation that there seems to be enough supply," he added. Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange had risen 0.12 percent to $7,955.75 a tonne by 0231 GMT. It fell to $7,920 in the previous session, its lowest since Dec. 31. Copper prices rallied in early January to 2-1/2-month highs near $8,250 a tonne, but have since struggled to find momentum, weighed down by tepid demand ahead of China's Lunar New Year holiday and more plentiful supply than previous years. The global market for refined copper is expected to swing to a 281,000-tonne surplus in 2013 from a deficit in 2012, the International Wrought Copper Council (IWCC) said last year.
The most-traded April copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange fell 0.43 percent to 57,690 yuan ($9,300) a tonne. Traders are bracing for a slew of economic reports from China on Friday, including fourth-quarter GDP, December industrial output, retail sales and house prices. "Today, market participants are likely to be in a wait-and-see mode ahead of Chinese industrial production and GDP growth data due on Friday. Additional signs of economic recovery could support sentiment," Credit Suisse said in a note. China's annual economic growth may have quickened to 7.8 percent in the fourth quarter, a Reuters poll showed, snapping seven straight quarters of weaker expansion, but the recovery is likely to be tepid and the economy may need continued policy support.
SMELTERS WIN ON TC/RCS Feeding the swelling copper stocks is improving mine production, with Credit Suisse seeing growth of 5-6 percent this year. This is also being reflected in rising fees for smelters, which have gained the upper hand in negotiations over processing fees with miners. Japanese smelter Pan Pacific Copper and major miners have agreed on a more than 10 percent increase in copper concentrate treatment and refining charges for 2013, from $63.50 a tonne last year, a source said.
Base metals prices at 0231 GMT
Metal Last Change Pct Move YTD pct chg LME Cu 7955.75 9.75 +0.12 0.34 SHFE CU FUT APR3 57690 -250 -0.43 0.02 HG COPPER MAR3 361.45 0.80 +0.22 -1.04 LME Alum 2050.25 5.25 +0.26 -1.00 SHFE AL FUT APR3 15215 -40 -0.26 -0.85 LME Zinc 1984.00 5.00 +0.25 -3.85 SHFE ZN FUT APR3 15230 -315 -2.03 -2.03 LME Nickel 17410.00 10.00 +0.06 1.49 LME Lead 2270.00 4.00 +0.18 -2.99 SHFE PB FUT 15115.00 -55.00 -0.36 -0.89 LME Tin 24950.00 -45.00 -0.18 6.62 LME/Shanghai arb^ 183
Shanghai and COMEX contracts show most active months ($1 = 6.2165 Chinese yuan)
(Editing by Joseph Radford and Muralikumar Anantharaman)