METALS-Copper steady ahead of Fed announcement on stimulus cut
* China domestic copper premiums firm as prices fall
* Shanghai copper premiums unchanged at $170-$200 -Shmet
* Coming Up: U.S. Building permits, Housing starts at 1230 GMT
* Coming Up: Fed Chairman holds news briefing at 1830 GMT
(Adds analyst comment, detail; updates prices)
MELBOURNE, Sept 18 (Reuters) - London copper was treading water on Wednesday, underpinned by a slightly weaker dollar and steady Chinese demand in what is expected to be a quiet session ahead of a U.S. Federal Reserve announcement on the scale of its stimulus drawback.
The Fed is expected to begin to retreat from its ultra-easy monetary policy later in the day by announcing a small reduction in its bond buying, while stressing that interest rates will remain near zero for a long time to come.
"I still think copper is a great buy, due partly to seasonal strength in the third quarter, but I do want to see more recovery talk," said Jonathan Barratt, chief executive of Sydney-based commodity research firm Barratt's Bulletin.
Barratt said he was expecting a muted trading day ahead of the Fed communique, with limited support from top consumer China given the slow global economic recovery.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange was barely changed at $7,076 a tonne by 0213 GMT, flat to the previous session, when it also finished little changed.
Copper fell to its lowest in more than a month on Friday at $7,024 a tonne. Prices have been trending towards the lower end of their recent $7,000-$7,500 range in the past week.
The most-traded December copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange edged up 0.18 percent to 51,260 yuan ($8,400) a tonne.
Shanghai bonded premiums were quoted unchanged on the day at $170-200 a tonne, according to China-based price provider Shmet, down from 4-year peaks around $210 a tonne in late June. (http://www.shmet.com/)
As prices have slipped towards the bottom end of the recent range, China-based bargain hunters are stepping up their purchases of physical copper.
Domestic market prices <CU-1-CCNMM> jumped to around 400 yuan per tonne over the front month ShFE futures contract on Tuesday, the highest in nearly two months.
In the wake of slowing commodities demand, miners are tightening their belts, crimping the pipeline of new projects.
Still, supporters and opponents of a giant mine to tap Alaska's gold and copper wealth have found a rare point of agreement: The Pebble project remains alive even without its heavyweight financial backer.
Talks between large aluminium producers and consumers to decide quarterly Japan aluminium premiums are ongoing.
The world's top aluminium producers and consumers are at loggerheads over the thorny issue of what price, or premium, should be paid to secure metal deliveries, and will conclude fewer fixed term supply deals this year, industry sources said.
Three month LME copper
Most active ShFE copper
Three month LME aluminium
Most active ShFE aluminium
Three month LME zinc
Most active ShFE zinc
Three month LME lead
Most active ShFE lead
Three month LME nickel
Three month LME tin
($1 = 6.1215 Chinese yuan)
(Editing by Joseph Radford and Tom Hogue)