METALS-London copper climbs on Yellen, China data tops forecasts
* China import growth hits 6-month high, beats forecasts
* China copper imports surge by 53.2 pct to record in Jan
* Coming Up; Euro zone Industrial production at 1000 GMT
(Adds comment, detail, updates prices)
SYDNEY, Feb 12 (Reuters) - London copper climbed on Wednesday as the appetite for risk picked up following comments by new Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on the world's top economy, while stronger-than-expected Chinese trade data was also being digested.
Fresh from taking the helm at the Fed, Yellen made it clear on Tuesday she would not make any abrupt changes to U.S. monetary policy, saying the central bank was on track to keep reducing its stimulus even though the labour market recovery was far from complete.
"Yellen is sticking to the rules - if they don't get the required economic strength to tighten, they won't do it. That is fuelling risk appetite today," said Jonathan Barratt, chief executive of commodity research firm Barratt's Bulletin in Sydney.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange had risen 0.65 percent to $7,121.75 a tonne by 0402 GMT, reversing losses from the previous session.
Copper prices have recouped more than 1 percent since falling to two-month lows of $7,016 on Feb. 4, but are still down 3.2 percent this year.
The most-traded April copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange was flat at 50,550 yuan ($8,300)($8,300) a tonne.
Also supporting sentiment, China's trade performance zoomed past forecasts in January as import growth hit a six-month high, confounding market expectations that the world's second-largest economy is mired in a deepening slowdown.
However, analysts who had expected the Lunar New Year holiday to drag on the month's trade flows cautioned that the data may have been inflated by fake transactions, where traders forge deals so as to sneak cash into the country past capital controls.
While China's robust trade data would also help shore up confidence on growth in the world's second biggest economy, the figures may reflect a surge in inflation, or just stockpiling ahead of the holidays, Barratt cautioned.
"It's a good number, there's no doubt about it... but investors are still keen to know what is happening with real demand. That's the big question," he added.
The second quarter is typically the strongest for China's refined production and factories tend to ramp up at the end of February.
China's imports of crude oil, iron ore and copper hit record highs in January. China imported 536,000 tonnes of anode, refined copper, alloy and semi-finished copper products, up 53.2 percent from a year ago and a gain of 21 pct from December.
"A jump of 53 percent is quite phenomenal," Matt Fusarelli, of AME Group in Sydney said.
"Tight credit conditions in December certainly would have contributed to the increase in imports," he said.
However, traders and analysts warned that the high level of January imports could feed into domestic stockpiles and blunt demand for the metal going forward, dampening prices.
The most active April contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange fell to its lowest in more than two months on Tuesday.
Also reflecting ample supply in the domestic market, physical copper prices have traded at a discount to front month ShFe future prices since Jan 21, although the gap narrowed on Tuesday.
"Consumption actually depends on what we will see in the next few weeks so I am still very concerned by the high level of imports and the increasing levels of stockpiles onshore," said analyst Judy Zhu of Standard Chartered.
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 = 6.0606 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Joseph Radford and Ed Davies)