METALS-Copper steady as China cash drain offsets strong euro

* China's central bank drains $7.9 bln from the market

* Alcoa to shut Port Henry aluminium smelter in Australia

* Coming Up: U.S. New York Fed manufacturing at 1330 GMT

(Updates with official prices)

LONDON, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Copper was steady on Tuesday after a move by China's central bank to drain funds from the market offset a stronger euro versus the dollar.

The People's Bank of China (PBOC) issued cash-draining forward bond repurchase agreements on Tuesday, sucking 48 billion yuan ($7.9 billion) out of the system, pushing up the cost of money after unexpectedly strong credit growth in January.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange was $7,171 a tonne in official rings, just $1 lower than its last bid on Monday. It hit an intra-day peak of $7,206.50 a tonne on Monday, rebounding from two-month lows near $7,000 touched early this month.

"The PBOC's decision is predominantly on traders' minds today," Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Ava Trade in Dublin, said. "Given that the Chinese growth (rate) is already a major concern for many, the reduction in liquidity by the PBOC is not helping the metal."

China is the biggest consumer of copper, which is used in construction and power cables.

It imported record volumes of copper last month, partly for consumption and partly to ease tight credit conditions. Goldman Sachs sees Chinese bonded inventories at 700,000 tonnes, up from 550,000 tonnes since the beginning of the year, it said in a note.

The euro was close to its Jan. 24 high against the dollar, helping to underpin industrial metals. A weaker U.S. currency makes it less expensive for foreign investors to purchase dollar-priced commodities, thus supporting prices.

In the week ahead, the focus will be on the U.S. Federal Reserve's tapering of monetary stimulus, with the release of its minutes on Wednesday, and on China's slowdown, with a purchasing managers' index due on Thursday. Both factors have been behind this year's sell-off in emerging markets.

U.S. manufacturing last week recorded its biggest drop in more than 4-1/2 years in January as cold weather disrupted production. It was the latest indication the world's biggest economy got off to a weak start this year.

Global miner BHP Billiton topped market forecasts with a 31 percent rise in first-half profit on Tuesday but gave a cautious outlook on Chinese growth.

Its copper output grew by 6 percent, and total full-year 2014 production is seen unchanged at 1.7 million tonnes. It also expected the copper market to move back into deficit in the medium term and for supply surpluses in nickel and aluminium to ease.

Benchmark three-month aluminium on the LME firmed after producer Alcoa Inc announced it would close its Point Henry smelter and two rolling mills in Australia, removing around 190,000 tonnes of annual capacity, equal to about 10 percent of the country's total output.

The LME three-month aluminium contract was $1,736.50 per tonne from a last bid of $1,732 on Monday. It has risen 1.7 percent so far this month after falling 5 percent last month and more than 13 percent last year.

United Company Rusal, the world's largest aluminium producer, also indicated on Tuesday that its output of the metal could fall to 3.5 million tonnes this year from 3.9 million last year.

The announcements underscored the dire market conditions facing producers amid a flood of new Chinese capacity.

LME three-month lead was $2,150 per tonne in rings, flat from Monday's close, tin was $23,060 per tonne from $23,125 and nickel was $14,450 from $14,385.

Zinc, untraded in rings, was bid at $2,067 per tonne from $2,059 at the close on Monday.


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 = 6.0641 Chinese yuan)

(Additional reporting by Melanie Burton in Sydney; editing by Jane Baird)