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METALS-London copper hovers below key level of $6,000, eyes 7-pct gain in H1

MELBOURNE, June 30 (Reuters) - London copper was steady near the key level of $6,000 a tonne on Friday and looked set to rack up a 7-percent gain in the first half of the year, with prices supported by a weaker dollar and brighter factory growth China.

FUNDAMENTALS

* London Metal Exchange copper was down 0.1 percent at $5,935 a tonne at 0114 GMT, paring a 1-percent gain from the previous session when prices touched their highest since March 30 at $5,963.50.

* LME copper was eyeing a fourth consecutive quarter of gains and was on track to advance 7 percent for the first half.

* Shanghai Futures Exchange copper climbed 0.5 percent to 47,440 yuan ($6,993) a tonne. Open interest has surged by more than 17 pct in the past week as prices have climbed, suggesting investors have added fresh long positions.

* Across other metals, LME lead has rallied 14 percent in the first half to become the best performing base metal so far this year. Prices have been supported by tightly held available exchange stocks and as China has shipped in more metal.

* Copper production at Chile's Escondida copper mine, the world's largest, fell 63 percent in the first quarter of 2017 from a year earlier amid a prolonged strike, the mine said on Thursday.

* Activity in China's manufacturing sector in June quickened from the previous month, an official survey showed on Friday, in a reassuring sign the world's second-biggest economy kept up a reasonable pace of growth after a solid first quarter.

* The struggles of China's small and medium-sized firms have grown so acute that many are expected to become unprofitable or even go belly-up this year, boding ill for an economy running short on strong growth drivers.

* The U.S. economy slowed less than feared in the first quarter largely due to a jump in consumer spending, providing a slightly more encouraging outlook for growth this year.

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MARKETS NEWS

* The euro and sterling advanced on Thursday and U.S. bond yields spiked as hawkish comments from central banks signalled an end to ultra-loose monetary policy on both sides of the Atlantic, while technology shares dragged Wall Street stocks lower. DATA AHEAD (GMT) 0600 Germany Retail sales May 0645 France Consumer spending May 0645 France Consumer prices Jun 0800 Germany Unemployment rate Jun 0830 Britain GDP Q1 0900 Euro zone Inflation flash Jun 1230 U.S. Personal income May 1345 U.S. Chicago PMI Jun PRICES

BASE METALS PRICES 0112 GMT Three month LME copper 5933.5 Most active ShFE copper 47430 Three month LME aluminium 1911.5 Most active ShFE aluminium 13970 Three month LME zinc 2751 Most active ShFE zinc 22580 Three month LME lead 2302.5 Most active ShFE lead 17760 Three month LME nickel 9270 Most active ShFE nickel 76360 Three month LME tin 19925 Most active ShFE tin 145550

BASE METALS ARBITRAGE

LME/SHFE COPPER LMESHFCU 487.98

c3

LME/SHFE ALUMINIUM LMESHFAL -1125. c3 34 LME/SHFE ZINC LMESHFZN 333.21

c3

LME/SHFE LEAD LMESHFPB -1260. c3 06 LME/SHFE NICKEL LMESHFNI 2136.0 c3 6

($1 = 6.7840 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Joseph Radford)