(Adds comments, context, update closing prices) BEIJING, Dec 26 (Reuters) - Shanghai nickel closed nearly 1 percent lower on Tuesday after declining as much as 2.6 percent in early trade, with prices dampened by waning demand for steel. "Nickel is seeing lackluster trade toward year-end, while demand for the metal is also waning, pressured by the piling stainless steel inventory," CITIC Futures analysts said in a note in Mandarin. Customs data showed on Tuesday that China's imports of refined nickel and nickel alloy surged 55.7 percent in November from the same month a year ago to 26,349 tonnes.
* London Metal Exchange (LME) is closed on Tuesday for the Boxing Day holiday.
* The most-traded May nickel contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange closed 0.9 percent lower at 95,630 yuan ($14,614.50) a tonne. It went as high as 97,650 yuan a tonne on Monday, the highest since Nov 15.
* SHFE: Shanghai Futures Exchange says it will cut margin requirements for copper, aluminum, tin, gold, silver futures contracts from Jan 2.
* STEEL: Steel demand in the world's top producer and consumer of the metal cooled as construction slowed with lower temperature in China's northern regions.
* COPPER: Pan Pacific Copper (PPC), Japan's biggest copper smelter, expects copper prices to rise more than a quarter over the next two years as global demand continues to grow and outpaces supply, its senior executive said on Monday.
* DOLLAR: The dollar was steady in holiday-thinned trading on Tuesday, shrugging off upbeat Japanese economic data as most market participants have already closed their books for the year.
* CHINA MONETARY: Beijing is likely to set its 2018 money growth target at an all-time low of around 9 percent to curb debt risks and contain asset bubbles, the official China Daily reported on Monday, citing economists involved in high-level policy discussions.
* CHINA ECONOMY: China needs to let local governments take responsibility for their finances, including allowing bankruptcies, as part of an effort to defuse their debt risks, a central bank official wrote on Monday.
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* Financial markets in the United States, UK, Germany, France, Brazil, Hong Kong, South Korea, India and Australia were closed on Monday for Christmas.
1400 U.S. S&P Case-Shiller home price Oct
1500 U.S. Richmond Fed manufacturing index Dec
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1530 U.S. Dallas Fed Texas manufacturing activity index
BASE METALS PRICES GMT 0755 Three month LME copper 7136 Most active ShFE copper 55240 Three month LME aluminum 2183 Most active ShFE aluminum 14610 Three month LME zinc 3275 Most active ShFE zinc 25525 Three month LME lead 2482.5 Most active ShFE lead 19000 Three month LME nickel 12080 Most active ShFE nickel 95630 Three month LME tin 19530 Most active ShFE tin 141020
($1 = 6.5435 Chinese yuan)
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(Reporting by Muyu Xu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier and Subhranshu Sahu)