METALS-LME copper gains after China data, snaps 3-day drop
* China exports, imports surge, surpass market expectations
* China copper imports rise 3 pct in Jan vs Dec
* LME copper cuts weekly loss
(Adds China data, comments, updates prices) SINGAPORE, Feb 8 (Reuters) - London copper futures rose for the first time in four sessions on Friday after trade data from top consumer China confirmed signs of a strengthening economic recovery, suggesting its raw material demand will remain robust. China's exports jumped 25 percent in January from a year earlier, topping market forecasts for an increase of 17 percent, while imports surged 28.8 percent, also ahead of analysts' estimate of 23.3 percent. The sharp rise was partly due to the Lunar New Year effect, with the holiday falling in January last year, but the "numbers are still very strong and shows the economic recovery is on track," said Zhang Zhiwei, chief China economist at Nomura in Hong Kong. China copper imports, up nearly 3 percent to 350,958 tonnes in January from December, also underpinned metal prices.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange rose half a percent to $8,243.25 a tonne by 0400 GMT. Import data from China, which accounts for 40 percent of global demand for refined copper, helped copper cut back its losses for the week to 0.6 percent from more than 1 percent at the end of trade on Thursday. "The caution of the past two days ahead of Lunar New Year is fading and we could see prices rally further today and early next week," said Nick Trevethan, senior commodities strategist at ANZ. Copper could test recent highs around $8,350 and possibly rise towards $8,400, said Trevethan, adding the increased month-on-month imports and rising domestic production of copper in China point to improving demand conditions there. LME copper hit a four-month high of $8,346 on Monday. The most-traded May copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange gained 0.3 percent to 59,770 yuan ($9,600) a tonne. The upbeat China trade numbers boosted other commodities including oil, with Brent crude hitting near five-month highs at just below $118 per barrel, while Asian shares also rose.
Base metals prices at 0400 GMT
Metal Last Change Pct Move YTD pct chg LME Cu 8243.25 43.25 +0.53 3.96 SHFE CU FUT MAY3 59770 180 +0.30 3.62 HG COPPER MAR3 374.45 1.75 +0.47 2.52 LME Alum 2104.75 6.75 +0.32 1.63 SHFE AL FUT MAY3 15195 -10 -0.07 -0.98 LME Zinc 2165.75 2.75 +0.13 4.96 SHFE ZN FUT MAY3 15935 390 +2.51 2.51 LME Nickel 18235.00 55.00 +0.30 6.30 LME Lead 2420.50 12.50 +0.52 3.44 SHFE PB FUT 15490.00 55.00 +0.36 1.57 LME Tin 24720.00 45.00 +0.18 5.64 LME/Shanghai arb^ 511
Shanghai and COMEX contracts show most active months
($1 = 6.2322 Chinese yuan)
(Editing by Himani Sarkar)