METALS-Copper up on growth hopes, caution prevails ahead of Fed
* Fed meeting, U.S. GDP and job data in focus this week
* China's top think tank lifts '13 growth forecast to 8.4 pct
* Copper range bound as supply growth forecasts cap gains
(Recasts, adds fresh quote, details, updates prices)
LONDON, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Copper edged up on Tuesday as optimism about economic recovery gathered pace following comments over growth in top consumer China, though gains were limited by improved supply prospects and caution ahead of a Federal Reserve policy meeting.
A two-day Fed meeting concludes on Wednesday with investors awaiting clues on when the central bank will unwind its ultra-loose monetary policy. They were also reluctant to make big bets following mixed U.S. economic data.
A report earlier showed U.S. consumer confidence dropped in January to its lowest in more than a year, though a separate report showed U.S. single-family home prices rose in November, adding further evidence of a housing market recovery.
China's top think tank lifted its economic growth forecast for 2013 to 8.4 percent from 8.2 percent, with faster expansion seen in the first half of the year.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange traded up at $8,102 a tonne at 1556 GMT, from a close of $8,050 on Monday. The metal's year-to-date gains amounted to just under 2 percent.
"On the one hand macro newsflow (U.S. consumer data to one side) is better, and that probably includes China. But on the other hand there is a sense of more supply coming through in most metals markets. Net net, the balance is much as it was and prices are range-bound," Macquarie analyst Duncan Hobbs said.
A Reuters poll last week showed analysts expect new supply to push the market into a surplus of 120,000 tonnes in 2013.
MORE THAN ENOUGH LIQUIDITY?
Investors were looking to U.S. fourth-quarter gross domestic product estimates on Wednesday and non-farm payrolls on Friday for fresh signs that a fledgling recovery in economic growth is taking root.
Further signs of brightening U.S. growth prospects, however, could fuel speculation the Federal Reserve may consider pulling back on aggressive easing stimulus.
"The market is giving that impression (of confidence in the economic recovery) in the way that risky assets generally appear to be going up. But is that genuinely a reflection of economic expectations, or is that as much a reflection of the amount of liquidity that is being put to work in the market?" said Nic Brown, head of commodity research at Natixis.
"We may find out more by listening to the Fed. At their last meeting they talked about potentially slowing the rate of purchases within QE3. If we get any more talk like that, it would be an interesting signal that the Fed thinks that there is more than enough liquidity in the system."
Also on the data calendar for the week are China's official purchasing manager's index (PMI) and HSBC's final PMI for January, which are expected to show an uptick in activity in the world's No.2 economy.
Chinese buying has remained subdued ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday. China's markets will be closed from Feb. 11 to Feb. 15. China accounts for 40 percent of refined copper consumption.
In other metals, soldering metal tin traded up at $24,614 a tonne from $24,400 on Monday, while zinc, used in galvanizing, was at $2,092.75 a tonne from $2,081 a tonne.
Chinese investors, who boosted zinc imports by almost 50 percent last year, will continue to use the metal as a financing tool in 2013, a move that would support global premiums of the metal but curb domestic production, traders said.
Battery material lead was at $2,394 from Monday's close of $2,378, while aluminium was at $2,048.25 a tonne from $2,050, and stainless-steel ingredient nickel was at $17,797 a tonne from $17,625.
(Additional reporting by Melanie Burton in Singapore; editing by Keiron Henderson and Jane Baird)