(Recasts to lead with zinc, adds BEIJING to dateline, updates prices) MANILA/BEIJING, March 15 (Reuters) - London zinc briefly rose by 2 percent on Friday and Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) spreads went wild after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said a planned cut in value-added tax (VAT) would take effect from April 1. The metal used to galvanise steel is on course for a 4.1 percent gain this week, which would be its biggest weekly rise since the week ended Sept. 28, 2018, as investors worry about ultra-tight stocks. The low-inventory situation, as well as fears of production outrages, has spurred the backwardation in London Metal Exchange zinc higher, Jinrui Futures said in a note. The premium for cash zinc over the three-month LME contract <CMZN0-3> stood at $55 a tonne on Thursday, the highest since early January. Some speculators on the ShFE had previously bet that the planned cut in VAT on China's manufacturing sector, which includes non-ferrous metals, to 13 percent from 16 percent would be implemented on May 1, increasing the backwardation on metals including copper and aluminium.
* LME ZINC: Three-month zinc on the London Metal Exchange rose 2 percent to $2,882 a tonne, the highest since July 2, after Li's comments, before giving up gains to trade 0.1 percent lower at $2,822 as of 0351 GMT.
* SHFE ZINC: The most traded May zinc contract, rose as much as 1.4 percent to 22,170 yuan ($3,299.55) a tonne, the highest since April 2, but was down 0.6 percent at the end of the morning session.
* COPPER: Benchmark LME copper nudged up 0.2 percent to $6,414.50 a tonne, while ShFE copper shed 0.6 percent to 48.990 yuan a tonne.
* SPREADS: The backwardation between the March and April ShFE copper contracts spiked to over 1,000 yuan a tonne, the highest since May 2014, after Li's comments. The spread between April and May, previously in a steep backwardation, immediately flipped into contango.
* CHINA: New home prices in China grew at their slowest pace in 10 months in February as a cooling economy and existing curbs on speculative investment put a dent on overall demand.
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* Asian stocks stepped ahead as sentiment improved on a report that more progress has been made in U.S.-China trade talks and after UK lawmakers voted to delay a potentially chaotic exit from the European Union.
DATA/EVENTS 1000 EU HICP Final Feb 1100 EU Reserve Asset Total Feb 1315 US Industrial Production Feb 1400 US U Mich Sentiment Prelim March Japan BOJ Rate Decision Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda speaks to reporters at the end of the central bank policy meeting
BASE METALS PRICES 0353 GMT Three month LME copper 6413 Most active ShFE copper 48980 Three month LME aluminium 1905 Most active ShFE aluminium 13640 Three month LME zinc 2821.5 Most active ShFE zinc 21735 Three month LME lead 2108 Most active ShFE lead 17280 Three month LME nickel 12935 Most active ShFE nickel 100830 Three month LME tin 21185 Most active ShFE tin 147110
BASE METALS ARBITRAGE
LME/SHFE COPPER LMESHFCUc3 -955.79 LME/SHFE ALUMINIUM LMESHFALc3 -1084.35 LME/SHFE ZINC LMESHFZNc3 -679.61 LME/SHFE LEAD LMESHFPBc3 342.85 LME/SHFE NICKEL LMESHFNIc3 1883.21
($1 = 6.7191 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz in MANILA and Tom Daly in BEIJING; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Subhranshu Sahu)