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METALS-Prices stall in first quarter as trade concerns bite

MELBOURNE, March 29 (Reuters) - London copper edged up on Thursday but has dropped nearly eight percent in the first quarter, reflecting complex wide losses on fears that an escalating trade spat could slow the demand for metals. Concerns that worsening trade relations between China and the United States could spill across into other countries have fuelled worries about a slowdown in China, which is already seeing inventories build, said analyst Helen Lau at broker Argonaut in Hong Kong. "Overall the inventory after China's new year did not come down as much as the industry expected," she said. "China's economic slowdown and the escalating trade war concerns... All of this is pointing towards headwinds for commodity demand."

FUNDAMENTALS

* LME: London Metal Exchange copper was up 0.4 percent at $6699 a tonne by 0253 GMT, having stabilised in the previous session. Prices this week fell to their weakest since early December at $6,532 a tonne and are staring at an 8 percent loss for the first quarter after double-digit growth for the past two years.

* SHFE: Shanghai Futures Exchange copper climbed 0.7 percent to 49,830 yuan ($7,911.78) a tonne, having plumbed this week to its weakest since July.

* TARIFFS: U.S. President Donald Trump's tariffs on Chinese goods may not be imposed until early June, administration officials said on Wednesday, with public consultations and potential tariff revisions buying time for negotiations to forestall them.

* TARIFFS: China is still considering import curbs on U.S. soybeans in retaliation for moves by Washington to impose trade tariffs, director at the U.S. Soybean Export Council Asia Paul Burke said.

* TRADE: China could target a broad range of U.S. businesses from agriculture to aircraft, autos, semiconductors and even services if the trade conflict with the United States escalates, the China Daily newspaper said in an editorial on Thursday.

* COPPER: Jiangxi Copper Co Ltd, one of China's biggest copper smelters, said on Wednesday its 2017 net profit more than doubled, growing at the fastest pace in seven years, mainly due to higher copper prices.

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MARKETS NEWS

* Asian stocks edged up and the safe haven yen was broadly lower against the dollar on Thursday amid perceived progress on North Korea issues, although equity gains were limited after a tech-led retreat on Wall Street.

BASE METALS PRICES 0100 GMT Three month LME copper 6678 Most active ShFE copper 49650 Three month LME aluminium 2039.5 Most active ShFE aluminium 13855 Three month LME zinc 3281 Most active ShFE zinc 24780 Three month LME lead 2410.5 Most active ShFE lead 18630 Three month LME nickel 13040 Most active ShFE nickel 96690 Three month LME tin 20880 Most active ShFE tin 140800

BASE METALS ARBITRAGE

LME/SHFE COPPER LMESHFCUc3 533.94 LME/SHFE ALUMINIUM LMESHFALc3 -1095.93 LME/SHFE ZINC LMESHFZNc3 233.24 LME/SHFE LEAD LMESHFPBc3 53.82 LME/SHFE NICKEL LMESHFNIc3 -420.39

($1 = 6.2982 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting by Melanie Burton, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)