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METALS-Lead hits two-week low as inventories surge, outages resolved

Eric Onstad

* GRAPHIC-2019 asset returns: http://tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl (Adds analyst comment, updates prices, changes dateline from SINGAPORE)

LONDON, July 31 (Reuters) - Lead touched a two-week low on Wednesday after inventories piled up and a major refinery assured consumers that a maintenance stoppage would not result in shortages.

Copper and some other metals eked out gains however after Chinese factory data came in slightly better than expected and investors hoped U.S. interest rates would be cut later on Wednesday.

The lead market surged 14% over three weeks earlier this month before hitting a four-month peak on July 25 as smelter closures worried the market and London Metal Exchange-registered stocks hit decade-long lows.

But the situation has reversed in recent days as signs emerged that supply was healthy, sending prices lower.

"All the signals are pointing to better supply on the market," said analyst Daniel Briesemann at Commerzbank in Frankfurt, pointing out that the Port Pirie smelter had restarted, resolving a major outage.

Port Pirie's owner Nyrstar said earlier this month that the blast furnace at the Australian operation was due to restart by the end of the month after a two-month outage that saw the loss of 30,000 tonnes of metal.

"The price rise was somewhat excessive, partly driven by speculation, so lead was ripe for a correction," Briesemann said.

LME benchmark lead was down 0.4% at $1,990.50 a tonne by 1030 GMT after earlier touching $1,981.50, the lowest since July 17.

* LEAD STOCKS: Lead inventories in LME-registered warehouses <MPBSTX-TOTAL> surged by 11,725 tonnes to 79,050, daily data showed on Wednesday, bringing the two-day rise to 42%.

* LEAD: Korea Zinc had secured inventories ahead of refinery maintenance being carried out until late August, so supplies will not be interrupted, a spokesman said.

* TRADE TALKS: Investors awaited further details of talks between U.S. and Chinese trade officials that lasted barely half a day before ending on Wednesday with a terse response from China's Foreign Ministry to U.S. President Donald Trump's warning not to stall.

* CHINA PMI: China's factory activity shrank for the third straight month in July, with the official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) at 49.7 in July, slightly firmer than June's 49.4 and higher than expectations.

* "This shows that stimulus measures announced previously are having some positive impact on the manufacturing sector," said analyst Helen Lau of Argonaut Securities.

* FED: The U.S. Federal Reserve is almost certain to cut interest rates for the first time in more than a decade on Wednesday, delivering a mild jolt to an economy that is facing headwinds from trade disputes and a global slowdown.

* PRICES: LME three-month copper added 0.3% to $5,962.50 a tonne, aluminium rose 0.3% to $1,808, nickel gained 0.2% to $14,385, zinc dropped 1.3% to $2,427.50, and tin shed 0.5% to $17,355.

* For the top stories in metals and other news, click or (Additional reporting by Mai Nguyen in Singapore; Editing by Jan Harvey)