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METALS-Copper climbs on strong euro and on Asian holiday ending

Susan Thomas and Melanie Burton
Thursday, 6 Feb 2014 | 9:56 AM ET

* Relative calm returns to emerging markets

* China markets to reopen after week-long break on Friday

* Euro strengthens after comments by ECB chief Draghi

(Adds details, updates prices)

LONDON/SYDNEY, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Copper firmed on Thursday on a stronger euro, expectations of a pickup in prices when top consumer China returns from holiday on Friday and by relative calm in vulnerable emerging markets.

Copper touched fresh session highs, edging away from two-month lows hit earlier this week, and aluminium moved into positive territory after the euro strengthened against the dollar.

A stronger euro makes commodities priced in dollars less expensive for buyers in Europe.

The euro got a boost following comments by the chief of the European Central Bank that gave no hint of imminent monetary policy easing and after the ECB left rates unchanged.

Copper prices fell for nine sessions from Jan. 21 on evidence that China's factories had a slow start to the year, and after fitful U.S. growth data.

But a brightening U.S. service sector and generally improving manufacturing health elsewhere in Asia, and in Europe have soothed investors' concerns.

Data on Thursday showed the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, in a boost to the labor market outlook and the broader economy.

The capital-hungry emerging markets of Turkey, South Africa and India have also regained some composure, after a rout that drove money out of so-called risk assets like base metals.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange rose 0.6 percent to $7,081 a tonne by 1448 GMT after touching a session high of $7,083.25. Prices hit a 2-month low on Tuesday at $7,016 and are down around 4 percent on the year. Trading volumes remained very low for a fifth day.

"I think maybe today's slight strength is anticipation of China markets opening overnight, and the default assumption is the because China is a net buyer of copper there may be some bargain hunting, since prices are fair bit down from when (China) closed last week," BNP Paribas analyst Stephen Briggs said. "The emerging markets have also stabilised somewhat."

China's stock, bond, foreign exchange and commodity futures markets reopen on Friday after the week-long Lunar New Year holiday.

After the holiday, manufacturing activity begins to rise for what is normally the most robust quarter of the year,

"If manufacturing picks up seasonally, the fundamental factors are aligned for at least a modest pick up in prices," Singapore-based analyst Sijin Cheng of Barclays said.

China's factories are lightly stocked given copper imports were uneconomic in January when LME prices shot to seven month peaks.

Wiktor Bielski, head of commodities research at VTB Capital, said Chinese buying after the new year holiday was likely to be muted.

"The copper market is a little better supplied in the very short term. My guess is they will try to do what they've done in the past two years and not come out buying aggressively as soon as the new year holidays are finished."

LME nickel outperformed the base metals complex, climbing 1.3 percent to $13,956 per tonne. Indonesia's government has banned exports of unprocessed minerals, including nickel.

"I think the market assumption is that there is going to be some easing of the restrictions," Briggs said. "There are no signs of that at the moment. As things stand the government in Indonesia is talking tough."

Aluminium gained 0.3 percent to $1,706.50 a tonne, zinc added 0.5 percent to $1,977, lead rose 0.4 percent to $2,105 and tin was up 0.3 percent to $22,150.

PRICES

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

(Additional reporting by Eric Onstad; Editing by William Hardy)