METALS-Copper steady, output boost by miners caps upside
* BHP sees Escondida copper output up 20 pct in 2013
* Freeport expects 18 pct rise in copper sales this year
* Zinc, lead outperform after breaking through resistance
* Coming up; Euro zone Consumer confidence Jan at 1500 GMT
(Adds details, quotes; previous SINGAPORE) LONDON, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Copper was steady on Wednesday at around 1-1/2-week highs, but prices were capped by signs of a well supplied market amid higher output from mining groups such as BHP Billiton. BHP, the world's biggest mining group, released its quarterly report on Wednesday showing 5 percent higher copper output and forecast the world's biggest copper mine would step up production by a fifth this year. Three month copper on the London Metal Exchange was virtually unchanged, up 0.1 percent at $8,142 a tonne by 1130 GMT. It had edged up to an intraday high of $8,146.50, the highest since Jan. 11 and slightly above a peak hit on Tuesday. "Copper does seem to be struggling for any meaningful direction at the moment. Overhanging copper is this sense that supply generally is improving," said analyst David Wilson at Citigroup in London. "We're just now getting all the big miners' production results for Q4 and I suspect we'll see some pretty healthy gains across the board." On Tuesday, Freeport-McMoRan said it expected to increase consolidated copper sales this year by 18 percent to 4.3 billion pounds. Freeport runs Grasberg, the world's second biggest copper mine. Recent data from China showed high domestic copper production and analysts estimate more than 1 million tonnes of copper are sitting in bonded warehouses in the world's biggest copper consumer. "There's still a sense that the Chinese market is very well supplied," Wilson said. Attention is on the scale of a revival in Chinese economic growth, with traders hoping HSBC's China flash purchasing manufacturer's index, due for release on Thursday, will provide fresh momentum. "It's possible in the very near term the China macro backdrop could continue to show further signs of stabilisation and that it could fuel positive sentiment," said Thomas Lam, chief economist at DMG & Partners Securities in Hong Kong. "But given all the uncertainties in the global economy, it's unlikely there will be a sustained significant rally for now." Copper has been stuck in a range of $7,920 to $8,250 this year, and traders and analysts expect prices to largely remain flat until after the Lunar New Year in mid-February. Markets in China will be closed from Feb. 11-15. The most-traded May copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange closed almost unchanged at 58,810 yuan ($9,500) a tonne. It marked its second highest point this year at 59,020 a tonne the session before.
LEAD, ZINC TOUCH HIGHS Other metals showed more life than copper, with zinc and lead touching the highest levels in nearly three weeks after breaking above major resistance on Tuesday, broker Marex Spectron said in a note. LME price rises on Tuesday were fuelled by buying by CTAs (commodity trading advisers), Justin Froome at Marex added. Lead prices are expected to outshine zinc again this year, as the market grapples with tightening supplies of the metal used in batteries while zinc battles high stocks and another year of surplus, results of a Reuters poll showed. The poll said cash lead is expected to average $2,312.5 a tonne in 2013, up 12 percent from $2,062.42 a tonne last year, while cash zinc is seen at $2,100, up 8 percent from an average of $1,948.20 in 2012. On Wednesday, benchmark three-month lead was the top performer, jumping 1.8 percent to $2,367.50 a tonne, followed by three-month zinc, which climbed 1.6 percent to $2,086.50. Aluminium gained 0.7 percent to $2,090 a tonne after news that benchmark U.S. Midwest spot premiums reached a record high. A steep contango in the forward curve continued to attract and lock metal into warehouses, cutting availability on the spot market. Nickel, mainly used in stainless steel, added 0.7 percent to $17,498 a tonne and soldering material tin rose 0.9 percent to $24,850.
PRICES Metal Prices at 1138 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 369.95 0.25 +0.07 365.25 1.29 LME Alum 2090.00 15.00 +0.72 2073.00 0.82 LME Cu 8140.25 7.25 +0.09 7931.00 2.64 LME Lead 2366.25 41.25 +1.77 2330.00 1.56 LME Nickel 17496.00 111.00 +0.64 17060.00 2.56 LME Tin 24801.00 176.00 +0.71 23400.00 5.99 LME Zinc 2086.25 33.25 +1.62 2080.00 0.30 SHFE Alu 15255.00 -10.00 -0.07 15435.00 -1.17 SHFE Cu* 58590.00 -100.00 -0.17 57690.00 1.56 SHFE Zin 15545.00 60.00 +0.39 15625.00 -0.51 ** Benchmark month for COMEX copper * 3rd contract month for SHFE AL, CU and ZN
SHFE ZN began trading on 26/3/07 ($1 = 6.2198 Chinese yuan)
(Additional reporting by Melanie Burton in Singapore; editing by James Jukwey)