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METALS-London copper buoyed near highest since early March

MELBOURNE, July 20 (Reuters) - London copper marked time on Thursday near its highest since early March, underpinned by brighter prospects for China's economy but awaiting a U.S. jobs report for cues on near-term direction.

FUNDAMENTALS

* London Metal Exchange copper edged up by 0.2 percent to $5,976 a tonne by 0221 GMT, recovering from a 0.7 percent loss in the previous session. It reached $6,020 a tonne, the highest since March 2, in the last session.

* Shanghai Futures Exchange copper eased by 0.2 percent to 47,720 yuan ($7,057) a tonne.

* LME nickel traded up 0.2 percent at $9,665 a tonne, having reached three-month highs hit earlier this week at $9,785 a tonne. Premiums for nickel have surged by 16 percent this week to reach their highest in two years at $200-$220 a tonne. Demand surged after China's import arbitrage turned positive this week.

* Premiums for zinc in China continue to fall reflecting ample availability of metal. <NI-BMPBW-SHMET> <0#BASEBW-SHMET>

* The European Central Bank is expected to lay the groundwork for an autumn policy shift when it meets on Thursday, emphasizing improved growth while tempering expectations after previously setting off a mini tantrum in financial markets.

* The Asian Development Bank raised its 2017 and 2018 growth forecasts for the region, reflecting rising exports as manufacturers of smartphones to cars to other consumer goods benefited from improving global demand.

* The United States and China failed on Wednesday to agree on major new steps to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with China, casting doubt over President Donald Trump's economic and security relations with Beijing.

* U.S. homebuilding surged to a four-month high in June, but construction activity remains constrained by rising lumber prices and labor and land shortages.

* Unionized workers at mines in Peru, the world's second biggest copper producer, started a nationwide strike on Wednesday to protest the government's proposed labor reforms, the head of a federation of mining unions said on Wednesday.

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MARKETS NEWS

* Asian shares scaled near-decade peak on Thursday, bolstered by a surge in global stocks to a record high on strong U.S. corporate earnings, while investors awaited the Japanese and European central bank meetings for clues on their policy outlooks.

DATA/EVENTS 1230 US jobless rate weekly 1230 US Philly Fed business index July 1400 EZ Consumer Confidence flash for July

BASE METALS PRICES 0152 GMT Three month LME copper 5968 Most active ShFE copper 47670 Three month LME aluminum 1925 Most active ShFE 14465

aluminum

Three month LME zinc 2742 Most active ShFE zinc 22680 Three month LME lead 2220 Most active ShFE lead 17300 Three month LME nickel 9655 Most active ShFE nickel 79200 Three month LME tin 20115 Most active ShFE tin 146650

BASE METALS ARBITRAGE

LME/SHFE COPPER LMESHFCUc3 581.94 LME/SHFE ALUMINIUM LMESHFALc3 -659.04 LME/SHFE ZINC LMESHFZNc3 620.8 LME/SHFE LEAD LMESHFPBc3 -854.44 LME/SHFE NICKEL LMESHFNIc3 2560.46

($1 = 6.7622 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)