METALS-Copper steady as China, US data lifts demand outlook
* Japan, China copper smelters secure more than 10 pct fee rise
* China GDP grew 7.9 pct in Q4, 7.9 pct for 2012
* Coming Up; U.S. Reuters/UMich consumer sentiment at 1455 GMT
(Adds comment, detail, updates prices) SINGAPORE, Jan 18 (Reuters) - London copper was steady on Friday, on track to close the week little changed as improving economic landscapes in China and the United States bolstered the demand outlook, but concerns over the U.S. debt ceiling loomed over prices. China's economy grew 7.9 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier with a bounce that snapped seven straight quarters of slowing expansion, official data showed on Friday.
The data came on the heels of more evidence that the U.S. economy remains on track, with weekly U.S. unemployment claims at five year-lows and a surge in residential construction in December. "The (China) numbers were a little bit higher than expected," said analyst Ed Meir of INTL FC Stone in New York. "We could therefore have a decent uptick going into next week. The macro picture both out of the U.S. and China both look good for metals," Meir said. "Still, as we get into February, the focus will then revert to what is going on in the U.S. If they don't raise the debt ceiling it's going to be a mess. Expect more of the same -- (copper prices) muddling along," he added. Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange traded little changed at $8,047 a tonne at 0318 GMT down 0.09 percent from the previous session when it closed up more than 1 percent. Copper prices have fallen on four of the last six sessions, hitting a 2013 low of $7,920 a tonne on Wednesday. Copper's upside run has sputtered since hitting 2-1/2 month highs in early January, with investors struggling to find reasons to buy the metal amid swelling mine supply and the end of the decade-long China-driven commodity bull run. China accounts for around 40 percent of refined copper consumption. The most-traded April copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange rallied 0.73 percent to 58,160 yuan ($9,400) a tonne, playing catch-up with overnight gains in London. In Asia, shares advanced after the encouraging Chinese data, cementing positive sentiment after global equities rose overnight on firm U.S. labour and housing market reports.
But worries over the U.S. debt persist, traders said. The U.S. Treasury hit its $16.4 trillion debt ceiling - the legal amount it is allowed to borrow - on New Year's Eve, and will run short of funds as early as mid-February. Squabbling in Washington over the debt ceiling is again raising the spectre that the U.S. may be forced to delay payments on its debt, potentially plunging the world's top economy make into recession and derailing a fragile global recovery.
SWELLING COPPER SUPPLY Reflecting improving mine supply, Japan's biggest copper smelter, Pan Pacific Copper and China's top smelter, Jiangxi Copper <0358 600362.SS> have won rises of more than 10 percent in copper concentrate treatment and refining charges for 2013 from major miners. The deals, which are usually hammered out by year end, were delayed by uncertainty over the global economic outlook. Still, stronger economic growth in China should result in LME base metal prices being driven higher by the increase in ShFE prices, said French bank Natixis in a research report. "Until then, rises in LME prices in anticipation of this development may be difficult to sustain, resulting in a continuation of the choppy price action we have witnessed since September," it added.
Base metals prices at 0318 GMT
Metal Last Change Pct Move YTD pct chg LME Cu 8047.00 -7.00 -0.09 1.49 SHFE CU FUT APR3 58160 420 +0.73 0.83 HG COPPER MAR3 366.00 -0.20 -0.05 0.21 LME Alum 2048.00 -0.50 -0.02 -1.11 SHFE AL FUT APR3 15260 20 +0.13 -0.55 LME Zinc 2012.75 2.75 +0.14 -2.46 SHFE ZN FUT APR3 15370 -175 -1.13 -1.13 LME Nickel 17530.00 -70.00 -0.40 2.19 LME Lead 2291.00 6.00 +0.26 -2.09 SHFE PB FUT 15275.00 45.00 +0.30 0.16 LME Tin 25100.00 180.00 +0.72 7.26 LME/Shanghai arb^ 358
Shanghai and COMEX contracts show most active months
($1 = 6.2160 Chinese yuan)
($1 = 6.2160 Chinese yuan)
(Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Tom Hogue)