METALS-LME aluminum steadies, supported by race to beat new U.S. tariffs

* LME/ShFE arb:

* GRAPHIC-2018 asset returns: (Recasts, updates prices, changes dateline, adds quote/details)

LONDON, March 2 (Reuters) - London aluminum prices steadied on Friday, helped by a weak dollar and a scramble to deliver more of the metal to the United States before President Donald Trump imposed hefty new tariffs on imports.

Trump said on Thursday he would impose tariffs of 10 percent on aluminum imports into the United States in order to protect producers, risking retaliation from major trade partners like China, Europe and neighboring Canada.

"The market is confused as to how to digest this (but) in the short term it's bullish," said Oliver Nugent, commodities strategist at ING, adding this was already evident in rising aluminum premiums or surcharges for metal shipments in Japan.

"We're expecting a rush of material into the U.S. before tariffs are implemented. Longer, term the question becomes will the U.S. drawdown its existing stocks rather than import. That would be bearish," he said.


* LME ALUMINIUM: Three-month aluminum on the London Metal Exchange edged up 0.3 percent at $2,152 a tonne as of 1208 GMT, having hit a two week low in the prior session.

* SHANGHAI ALUMINIUM: The most-traded April aluminum contract SAFcv1 on the Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) closed down 0.1 percent at 14,340 yuan ($2,259.98) a tonne. It had earlier touched a two-week high.

The "import duty increase on aluminum products will have a small impact on China's aluminum export and domestic market, in our view," Argonaut Securities said in a note.

"China's aluminum products exports to the U.S. accounted for around 14 percent of its total exports in 2017 and represent only 1 percent of China's total aluminum production," it said.

* US PREMIUMS: Spot aluminum premiums in the United States spiked to the highest in almost three years as buyers sought to secure metal before higher cost tariffs pledged by Trump come into force.

* JAPANESE PREMIUMS: A global aluminum producer has offered Japanese buyers a premium of $133 per tonne for primary metal shipments during the April to June quarter, up 29 percent from the current quarter.

* GLOBAL MARKETS: The specter of a global trade war sent world stocks tumbling on Friday and drove investors toward the traditional safe plays of government bonds and the Japanese yen, which jumped versus the dollar.

* TRADE WAR EUROPE: The firm response Europe has pledged to planned U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports is likely to stop short of triggering the trade war that open market supporters fear.

* TRADE WAR ASIA: Trump's planned tariffs on steel and aluminum risk retaliation from other economies and could cost jobs, Australia's trade minister said, while China predicted harm to trade if other countries follow the U.S. example.

(Additional reporting by Tom Daly in Beijing Editing by Edmund Blair)