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METALS-Copper prices climb from 2018 lows on strong China imports

MELBOURNE, Feb 8 (Reuters) - London copper prices climbed off seven-week lows on Thursday, buoyed by solid China import figures that bolstered optimism over the health of demand from the world's biggest metals user. China's trade machine kicked up a gear in January after stumbling the previous month, with exports and imports both growing much more than expected, getting the economy off to a solid start to the year. However, with jitters in wider markets following an equity shakeout this week, and an approaching holiday in China set to crimp near-term metals demand, metals looked vulnerable, said broker Kingdom Futures in a report. "The metals have started the day on... a nervous footing and as the Chinese holiday approaches there could yet be another round of selling before the weekend." FUNDAMENTALS

* COPPER: London Metal Exchange copper rose by 0.4 percent to $6,907 a tonne by 0526 GMT, reversing sharp losses from the previous session when prices fell 2.8 percent to the lowest since Dec. 19 at $6,865 a tonne.

* TECHNICALS: Prices also pierced support at the 100-day moving average near $6,883, damaging copper's technical picture.

* SHANGHAI COPPER: Shanghai Futures Exchange copper fell 2 percent to 51,840 yuan ($8,196) a tonne.

* IMPORTS: China's unwrought copper imports fell for a second straight month in January as winter restrictions on the construction sector and high domestic production rates continued to crimp demand for metal from overseas.

* SCRAP CONCERNS: Traders were likely to import more copper cathode to China given uncertainty over smelter feed supply as new restrictions on China's scrap imports come into force, said analyst Dan Morgan at UBS in Sydney. "I think imports will be strong in the first half of the year."

* SHARES: Asian shares flirted with six-week lows on Thursday as U.S. bond yields crept up towards four-year highs as investors fretted that low borrowing costs enjoyed by companies for many years may be endangered by the threat of rising inflation.

* ZINC TCS: Zinc smelters are set to accept lower fees for processing concentrate into metal when annual contracts are hammered out next week at a conference in California, as a crunch in mine supply stretches into a third year.

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PRICES

BASE METALS PRICES 0523 GMT Three month LME copper 6913 Most active ShFE copper 51840 Three month LME aluminium 2166 Most active ShFE aluminium 14330 Three month LME zinc 3405 Most active ShFE zinc 26275 Three month LME lead 2530.5 Most active ShFE lead 19075 Three month LME nickel 13160 Most active ShFE nickel 100500 Three month LME tin 21540 Most active ShFE tin 149760

BASE METALS ARBITRAGE

LME/SHFE COPPER LMESHFCUc3 1023.48 LME/SHFE ALUMINIUM LMESHFALc3 -1519.79 LME/SHFE ZINC LMESHFZNc3 701.36 LME/SHFE LEAD LMESHFPBc3 -244.66 LME/SHFE NICKEL LMESHFNIc3 2293.29

($1 = 6.3252 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Melanie Burton; editing by Richard Pullin)