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METALS-Copper rises on weaker dollar after dovish Fed comments

Zandi Shabalala

* GRAPHIC-2019 asset returns: http://tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl (Updates throughout, changes dateline to LONDON)

LONDON, July 11 (Reuters) - Copper was supported by a weaker U.S. dollar on Thursday after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell raised expectations for an easing of monetary policy, boosting assets such as commodities which are priced in the currency.

On Wednesday, Powell said the U.S. economy was under threat from a damaging trade war between Washington and Beijing, disappointing factory activity and tame inflation.

The comments helped lift benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) by 0.4% to $5,961.50 per tonne by 1030 GMT, adding to a 2% jump in the previous session.

"Stock markets are making new highs, bond yields are tracking lower and the dollar, most importantly, looks weaker again and that has helped copper recover to the current levels," said Ole Hansen, Saxo Bank's head of commodity strategy.

He said copper, which is used in power and construction, had settled into a range of between $5,800-6,100 per tonne, as the dollar's retreat made greenback-priced metals cheaper for holders of other currencies.

However, gains were capped as investors eyed forecasts for slower growth in China, with vehicle sales potentially falling in 2019, and a Reuters poll showing economists expect economic growth to weaken to a near 30-year low of 6.2% this year.

NICKEL STOCKS: Headline LME inventories of nickel <MNISTX-TOTAL> hit their lowest since Feb. 2013 at 153,612 tonnes. But the LME cash nickel contract stood at a $62 per tonne discount to the three-month, indicating ample supply.

LEAD: The difference between LME cash and three month lead contracts <CMPB0-3> flipped to a premium of $10.50 a tonne on Wednesday after holding in the discount zone for nearly a month, indicating a nearby supply shortage.

STOCKS: On-warrant stocks of lead <MPBSTX-TOTAL climbed 14,375 tonnes or 39% to 51,025 tonnes after falling to their lowest since 2008 on Tuesday.

"Lead smelters are all losing money, so prices should rise. Lead consumption now is not very good, but it will be better. The 3rd and 4th quarters are the peak season for lead-acid battery consumption" a China-based lead sales manager said.

Benchmark lead fell 0.4% $1,955 per tonne, snapping a three-session winning streak after touching its highest since April.

BOSNIA ALUMINIUM: Bosnia's sole aluminium smelter Aluminij will file for bankruptcy after closing on Wednesday over debts incurred because of high electricity and alumina prices.

TIN: The tin market is under greater pressure from an economic slowdown and falling demand than supply issues, where lower production from countries such as Myanmar is likely to be offset by a new project in central Africa.

Three month tin on the LME fell 1.2% to $17,970 per tonne.

PRICES: Aluminium eased 0.7% to $1,837 a tonne, zinc eased 0.2% to $2,397.50 and nickel touched its highest since mid-April, up 0.9% at $13,110.

(Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)