METALS-Copper slips as grim China trade data stoke demand worries
* China exports fall for first time in 17 months
* Customs says outlook for China exports in Q3 is weak
* China's copper imports up 5.9 percent to 379,951 T in June
* Coming Up; FOMC releases minutes from June meeting at 1800 GMT
(Recasts with China trade data, adds analysts' quotes) SINGAPORE, July 10 (Reuters) - London copper fell on Wednesday after top metal user China reported surprisingly weak trade data for June and flagged a grim outlook for exports in the third quarter, raising questions about demand. China's exports fell 3.1 percent in June from a year earlier, the first decline since January 2012, while imports dropped 0.7 percent, leaving the country with a trade surplus of $27.1 billion for the month, the Customs Administration said on Wednesday. The customs office also said a government crackdown on speculative activity may have laid bare China's real trade picture and that the country faces serious challenges ahead.
"We don't expect any acceleration in economic activity in China. Over the next six months a dip as far as $6,000 for copper cannot be ruled out," said analyst Dominic Schnider at UBS in Singapore. Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange fell to as low as $6,688 a tonne, within reach of a three-year low level of $6,602 hit on June 25, before paring losses to trade at $6,692.75 a tonne by 0249 GMT, down 0.55 percent. Copper prices fell 1.5 percent in the previous session and are down more than 15 percent for the year. The most-traded November copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange fell 1.78 percent to 48,130 yuan ($7,900) a tonne. The trade data compounded a dimming demand outlook for copper, after the International Monetary Fund trimmed its global growth forecast on Tuesday for the fifth time since early last year due to a slowdown in emerging economies and troubles of recession-struck Europe. The market will now be looking at China's second-quarter gross domestic product reading due next week. China's resolve to revamp its economy for the long-term good will be tested this month when a slew of data show growth is grinding towards a 23-year low, with no recovery in sight. China's imports of copper rose 5.9 percent to 379,951 tonnes in June from 358,672 tonnes in the previous month, data from the General Administration of Customs showed. Imports were driven by China financiers, looking to import cheaper international material to the domestic market, said Natalie Rampono, an analyst with ANZ in Melbourne. "Year on year it's up about 10 percent...it's encouraging. We still have a very cautious view on China, if you look at the headline number, export figures are really low and worse than expected so that could weigh on prices near term," she added.
PRICES Base metals prices at 0249 GMT
Metal Last Change Pct Move YTD pct chg LME Cu 6692.75 -37.25 -0.55 -15.59 SHFE CU FUT NOV3 48130 -870 -1.78 -16.56 HG COPPER SEP3 3.04 -0.03 -0.90 -99.17 LME Alum 1789.00 -1.00 -0.06 -13.62 SHFE AL FUT OCT3 14220 -40 -0.28 -7.33 LME Zinc 1860.25 -8.75 -0.47 -9.85 SHFE ZN FUT OCT3 14485 -1060 -6.82 -6.82 LME Nickel 13354.00 29.00 +0.22 -22.16 LME Lead 2037.00 0.00 +0.00 -12.95 SHFE PB FUT 0.00 -13895.00 -100.00 -100.00 LME Tin 19261.00 -44.00 -0.23 -17.69 LME/Shanghai arb^ ---
Shanghai and COMEX contracts show most active months ($1 = 6.1295 Chinese yuan)
(Editing by Eric Meijer and Muralikumar Anantharaman)