METALS-Copper steady on China demand, Ukraine tension caps gains

* LME copper slips into red after mounting Ukraine tensions

* SRB buying to support copper market

* Nickel on track for 11th weekly increase in 12

(Updates with official prices)

LONDON, April 25 (Reuters) - Base metals prices were under pressure from the deepening crisis in Ukraine on Friday, but copper bucked the trend, edging up to a seven-week high on rising seasonal demand in top metals consumer China.

A war of words ratcheted up after both Russia and Ukraine deployed troops close to their frontier. Ukraine's premier accused Russia of wanting to start World War Three and Russia said Kiev would face justice for a "bloody crime" in eastern Ukraine.

"With the weekend ahead of us and God knows what might happen in Ukraine, it is clearly a market factor and an increasing concern," said Stephen Briggs, metals strategist at BNP Paribas in London.

The mounting violence in Ukraine was having a broad impact on financial markets, capping investor appetite for some risky assets from commodities to equities.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange see-sawed between positive and negative levels and was up 0.33 percent at $6,775 a tonne in official midday trading. It dropped into negative territory in early European trading after hitting a seven-week high of $6,780 in Asian activity.

Copper has risen 1.5 percent this week, its biggest weekly gain since the end of last month.

The escalating tensions in Ukraine are prompting some investors to lock in recent gains. But Helen Lau, senior metals analyst at UOB-Kay Hian Securities in Hong Kong, says copper could move higher in the near term, given the strength of seasonal demand in China.

"If you ask fabricators, their order books are all pretty good," Lau said, adding that prices may bounce back in the short term to $7,000, a level last seen in early March.

The most-traded July copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange rose 2 percent to close at 47,920 yuan ($7,700) a tonne, after peaking at 48,020 yuan, also a seven-week high.


Purchases by China's state stockpiler, the State Reserves Bureau (SRB), had helped to boost premiums for copper held in Shanghai's bonded warehouses to $95-$115 a tonne over cash LME from as low as $65 in early April, Lau said.

The SRB has bought at least 200,000 tonnes of imported copper stored in bonded warehouses after global copper prices dived to multi-year lows in March.

The SRB move will provide continuing support to the copper market, Briggs said. "It does provide a floor. We know that were there to be large surpluses, it is likely that the SRB would absorb some of that; and when the price falls, the SRB is likely to be an opportunistic buyer."

LME nickel also bucked the weaker trend, rising 0.55 percent to $18,450 a tonne in official trading after fears of tighter supply lifted prices to $18,600 on Thursday, its highest in more than 14 months.

Nickel, the best-performing base metal this year, has gained more than 31 percent in 2014 as an Indonesian ban on exports of unprocessed nickel ore from January tightened supplies of the ore that top buyer China uses to make stainless steel.

For the week, nickel was up 3 percent, its 11th weekly gain out of 12.

Aluminium shed 0.75 percent in official trading to $1,863 a tonne, leading to a weekly loss of 1 percent after three weeks of gains.

Tin fell 0.1 percent to $23,700 a tonne in official rings after touching $23,849 on Thursday, its highest since early October. Tin has gained 1.1 percent for the week.

Zinc dropped 0.4 percent to $2.063.50 a tonnes in official trading while lead failed to trade in official rings and was last bid at $2,164, up 0.2 percent.


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 = 6.2489 Chinese yuan)

(Additional reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr in Singapore; Editing by David Goodman and David Evans)