(Recasts, adds details & quotes, updates prices)
SINGAPORE, July 12 (Reuters) - Shanghai nickel prices rose to near their highest since March, as investors bet on the potential demand for the metal in the electric vehicle (EV) battery sector.
Shanghai Futures Exchange's most active nickel contract advanced as much as 1.4% to 104,130 yuan ($15,154.12) a tonne, its highest since March 7, while benchmark nickel in London dipped 0.5% from a three-month high hit in the previous session.
"We believe the main driver of the nickel price rally has been the sustained level of speculative buying ... due to the metal's ongoing allure as key demand-beneficiary among metals used in the growing EV battery market," Fitch said in a report.
Most other industrial metals traded in tight ranges, as investors exercised caution ahead of a key set of trade data from top metal player China due to be released later on Friday, including imports and exports figures of key base metals.
Prices were also pressured by a steady U.S. dollar, after stronger-than-expected U.S. inflation data tempered the prospect of an aggressive Federal Reserve interest rate cut later this month.
A stronger dollar makes greenback-prices metals more expensive for buyers using other currencies.
* PRICES: Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange edged up 0.1% at $5,959.50 a tonne by 0358 GMT, while aluminum fell 0.4% and lead declined 0.5%.
SHANGHAI: The most-traded copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange rose 0.3% to 46,700 yuan a tonne, while aluminum fell 0.8%, nickel advanced 0.5%, zinc declined 0.6% and lead eased 0.1%.
* TRADE WAR: U.S. President Donald Trump said China was not living up to promises it made on buying agricultural products from American farmers as the world's two largest economies work to resolve a trade dispute.
* 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.
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0700 China Exports YY June
0700 China Imports YY June
0700 China Trade Balance USD June
1200 India Industrial Output YY May
1200 France Reserve Assets Total June
-- China Total Social Financing June
-- China M2 Money Supply YY June
-- China New Yuan Loans June
Three month LME copper
Most active ShFE copper
Three month LME aluminum
Most active ShFE aluminum
Three month LME zinc
Most active ShFE zinc
Three month LME lead
Most active ShFE lead
Three month LME nickel
Most active ShFE nickel
Three month LME tin
Most active ShFE tin
ARBS ($1 = 6.8714 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Gopakumar Warrier)