METALS-Copper rises on China demand optimism
(Updates prices, adds comment, detail)
* Copper prices supported by bets on post-China holiday buying
* Euro zone slips deeper into recession in Q4
* Aluminium holds near six week high
LONDON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Copper rose on Thursday on optimism that demand from China will pick up after the Lunar New Year, but volumes were thin as customers from the world's top copper consumer remained away from the market due to the week-long holiday. Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange rose to $8,242 a tonne at 1510 GMT, up 0.2 percent from $8,226 on Wednesday. Volumes were slowly recovering from extremely low levels at the start of the week as some Asian nations returned from holidays. But China, which accounts for 40 percent of global copper demand, will resume trading only next week. Investors kept their focus firmly on the outlook for China, where data last week showed January exports and imports had surged and new lending had soared, signalling not only a solid recovery in domestic and overseas demand but also risks that inflationary pressures are building. "There's a feeling that the importance of China is much greater than Europe, and prospects there have been improving for some time. Also GDP data is somewhat backward looking. More recent PMI data for almost all regions was more encouraging," said Ross Strachan, an economist at Capital Economics. But he added: "Our expectation is for prices to be broadly around current levels over coming months, because it's got to that stage where a lot of the improved macro data has been effectively priced in." Limiting gains, the dollar rose versus the euro after data showed the euro zone had slipped far deeper than expected into recession in the fourth quarter as Europe's two largest economies, Germany and France, both shrank at the end of the year. The dollar also gained strength from U.S. data showing the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week. A strong dollar makes dollar-priced metals costly for European investors. "We likely are not going to see much happen in the metals markets for the balance of the week. Next week should be busier as the reopening of the Chinese markets should provide clearer direction," Edward Meir, analyst at INTL FCStone said.
ALUMINIUM HOLDS NEAR HIGHS Aluminium prices rose to a fresh six-week high at $2,166.50 a tonne. Chart-based buying has improved the metal's technical picture, RBC Capital said in a note. "Aluminium's next target will be the January high, where a break and close above would set up a test of $2,200," it said. LME aluminium, which hit a 3-1/2 month peak of $2,184 on Jan. 3, later traded at $2,153, from $2,141 a tonne. China's state-owned CITIC Group has bought a $452 million ($467 million) stake in Australia's Alumina Ltd, giving it an interest in the world's largest alumina business at a time when China has grown more dependent on alumina imports. China's imports of the material used to make aluminium jumped by 165 percent last year in part due to uncertainty over Indonesian supply of bauxite, the raw material for alumina. Soldering metal tin was at $24,775 a tonne from $24,950, while zinc , used in galvanizing, was at $2,191 from $2,195. Battery material lead traded at $2,140.75 from $2,405 while stainless-steel ingredient nickel was at $18,351 from $18,360.
Metal Prices at 1510 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 374.40 0.15 +0.04 365.25 2.51 LME Alum 2154.75 13.75 +0.64 2073.00 3.94 LME Cu 8242.50 16.50 +0.20 7931.00 3.93 LME Lead 2409.00 4.00 +0.17 2330.00 3.39 LME Nickel 18352.00 -8.00 -0.04 17060.00 7.57 LME Tin 24775.00 -175.00 -0.70 23400.00 5.88 LME Zinc 2191.00 -4.00 -0.18 2080.00 5.34 SHFE Alu 15140.00 50.00 +0.33 15435.00 -1.91 SHFE Cu* 59480.00 120.00 +0.20 57690.00 3.10 SHFE Zin 15780.00 20.00 +0.13 15625.00 0.99
(Reporting by Maytaal Angel; editing by William Hardy)