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METALS-Nickel heads for best week since mid-Jan, copper steady

SINGAPORE, March 7 (Reuters) - Nickel held near nine-month highs on Friday and is on track for its biggest weekly gain since mid-January with supply tightened by Indonesia's ban on ore exports, while copper steadied on concerns over demand from top consumer China.

FUNDAMENTALS

* Three-month nickel on the London Metal Exchange was up 0.3 percent at $15,520 a tonne by 0118 GMT, and has gained 5.4 percent for the week, its fifth straight weekly rise.

The metal touched $15,562 on Thursday, its highest since June 3.

* LME copper was little changed at $7,054.25 a tonne, and was up 0.6 percent for the week.

* The most-traded May copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange edged up 0.2 percent to 49,310 yuan ($8,100) a tonne.

* Around $500 million a month in ore and concentrate exports have stopped since Indonesia in January imposed mining rules including a ban on nickel ore exports. The country was previously the world's top exporter of the metal used in the production of stainless steel.

* China, which accounts for 40 percent of global copper demand, said on Wednesday that it would reduce its pace of investment to the lowest in 10 years as it pursues a more sustainable economic expansion.

* Crimea's Moscow-backed parliament voted on Thursday to join Russia and set March 16 referendum on the split -- a dramatic escalation of the Ukraine crisis.

* U.S. President Barack Obama said a referendum would violate international law and ordered sanctions on those responsible for Russia's military intervention in Ukraine.

* Investors are also eyeing the U.S. jobs data later on Friday which is forecast to show a 150,000 increase in employment in February, up from 113,000 in January and 75,000 in December. That growth may be enough to keep the Federal Reserve on its stimulus tapering path.

* The U.S. economic outlook would have to change dramatically for the Federal Reserve to alter the pace at which it is winding down its massive bond-buying program, three top U.S. central bankers said.

* Physical prices of aluminium in Europe will stay at high levels this year as financing deals squeeze the availability of metal on the spot market, Rusal Deputy Chief Executive Oleg Mukhamedshin said.

* For the top stories in metals and other news, click , or

MARKETS NEWS

* Asian stocks edged up and the dollar dropped versus a basket of major currencies as investors looked toward the U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for confirmation that the U.S. employment picture has improved.

DATA (GMT)

1100 Germany Industrial output

1330 U.S. Unemployment rate

1330 U.S. Nonfarm payrolls

1330 U.S. International trade

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 ($1 = 6.1185 Chinese Yuan)

(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Michael Perry)