METALS-Copper steady as Chinese imports offset U.S. economy worries
* China's Oct copper imports down on month but up on year
Nickel biggest loser on week, set for 4 pct weekly drop
* Coming Up: U.S. nonfarm payrolls at 1330 GMT
By Susan Thomas
LONDON, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Copper dipped on Friday as solid imports of the metal into top consumer China offset concerns about fragile U.S. and European economic growth.
Volume was thin as traders waited for a U.S. labour report later in the day that may sway expectations on the timing of a reduction in the Federal Reserve's huge bond-buying programme, as well as a weekend Chinese leadership meeting that may offer clues on economic policy.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange, untraded in official rings, was bid at $7,125 a tonne, from a last bid of $7,145 on Thursday. Copper has remained firmly within a $7,000-7,420 band since early August.
China's copper imports in October were up 26.4 percent from October 2012, although they fell 11.2 percent from September, when they hit an 18-month high.
"October was a holiday month (in China), so the fact that imports were only down slightly was quite impressive, and they have increased very strongly on a year-on-year basis," Barclays analyst Gayle Berry said.
"I think what that's telling us is that China's appetite for copper is still strong. And our reading of that is that some of it is end-use demand, but also certainly there has been a pickup in financing demand."
Importers in China have been keen to use copper as collateral for short-term loans due to expectations of a cash crunch in the domestic market ahead of the year-end, according to traders in China.
Traders said increased interest by importers had cut the availability of copper in bonded warehouses in Shanghai, pushing buyers to get shipments from the international market.
Reflecting the fragile economic recovery in the West though, U.S. growth accelerated in the third quarter as businesses restocked, but the slowest expansion in consumer spending in two years suggested an underlying loss of momentum.
U.S. jobs growth also likely slowed in October as a partial shutdown of the government delayed hiring and forced some workers to stay at home, undermining the economy's fourth-quarter prospects.
In Europe, the European Central Bank cut interest rates to a record low on Thursday and said it could take them lower still to prevent the euro zone's recovery from stalling as inflation tumbles.
In industry news, the London Metal Exchange, aiming to appease critics of its global storage network, has slashed queues for metal, beefed up its powers to act against market abuse and will review its agreement with warehouse owners.
For the week, benchmark LME nickel was the biggest loser, facing a drop of nearly 4 percent. It was $13,920 in official rings, from $14,000 at the close on Thursday.
Brazil's Vale confirmed that it was in talks with Glencore-Xstrata over cooperation between the mining groups' nickel operations in Canada's Sudbury basin, in an effort to cut costs as prices languish.
Indonesia's ban on shipping unprocessed mineral ore should cut export revenue by no more than 10 percent next year, the country's investment chief said, as the controversial rule is relaxed to limit the impact on Southeast Asia's largest economy.
LME three-month aluminium was $1,810 in rings, from $1,821 on Thursday, zinc was $1,894 from $1,904, lead was $2,136 from $2,144 and tin was $22,850 from $22,695.
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