METALS-China demand concerns send copper to near three-month low

* Dollar holds near two-week high, equities pressured

* LME copper inventories continue to fall to 14-month lows

* Lead/zinc spread drops to lowest since Sept 2012

(Updates with closing prices)

LONDON, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Copper slipped to its lowest in nearly three months on Thursday, weighed down by concerns over demand from top consumer China while growing political turmoil in Ukraine also sapped appetite for risky assets such as metals.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange hit its lowest level since Dec. 4 at $6,993.50 a tonne before recovering to close down $1 or 0.01 percent at $7,025.

The metal used in power and construction is down more than 4 percent this year and has been trapped in a range between $7,000 and $7,220 for most of February.

Losses in base metals mirrored falls across other risk-sensitive assets, such as equities, as traders unwound positions in the face of growing political turmoil in Ukraine.

Shares in Europe and Asia came under pressure while the dollar held near a two-week high against a basket of currencies. A strong U.S. currency makes commodities priced in dollars more expensive for holders of other currencies.

Also curbing enthusiasm for base metals was a lack of signs that Chinese industry is ramping up after the Lunar New Year. China accounts for 40 percent of global demand for refined copper.

"There are some real concerns about China's financial sector reform and what the growth trajectory is going to be," Barclays analyst Gayle Berry said. "The fact that copper has broken (below) the $7,000 level illustrates that those concerns are still very much a feature of the market."

Preventing further falls for copper, however, were signs of tight short-term supplies in LME-registered warehouses, where stocks have fallen steadily since September to hit 14-month lows. <MCUSTX-TOTAL>

Reflecting the tightness in the market, cash LME prices climbed on Wednesday to a premium of $78.50 over the benchmark three-month contract - its highest since mid-May 2012 - before easing slightly to $74.25 on Thursday. <CMCU0-3>


The lead/zinc spread narrowed to $63 during the day, the lowest in 17 months as investors continued to favour zinc over sister metal lead.

Lead closed 0.14 percent firmer at $2,138 a tonne and zinc added 0.4 percent to $2,063.

The spread has contracted from $247 in November as investors piled into zinc, counting on the closure of major mines would tighten supply and push the market into deficit.

"Fundamentally we still favour lead over zinc on a 12-month view," said Walter de Wet at Standard Bank, although he said the spread could reverse.

"Between $50-$0, we would expect renewed interest to initiate long the spread again. But for now, the market seems still to like zinc."

Tin ended the day unchanged at $23,575 a tonne.

Tin sellers on Indonesia's physical trading platform for the metal have put in place a "suggested opening bid", the commodities trading regulator said, which gives guidance but does not act as a floor price for the solder metal.

Aluminium finished down 0.34 percent at $1,768 while nickel was the biggest gainer, rising 1.7 percent to $14,445.

China's users of primary aluminium are set to cut imports of spot metal in the April-June quarter in response to record premiums demanded by sellers and may turn to domestically sourced metal, prices of which have fallen.


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 Melanie Burton in Sydney; Editing by William Hardy and Susan Fenton)