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LONDON, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Copper was steady on Tuesday as downbeat factory data from China, the biggest producer of the metal, highlighted the impact of Beijing's trade conflict with the United States and reinforced concerns about demand for the metal.
Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) ended 0.2% higher at $5,825 a tonne after remaining in the red for most of the trading session. That's not far above $5,518 it hit on Sept. 3, which was the lowest since May 2017.
"There is lack of a clear trend generally for industrial metals. They are still looking for signals," said ING analyst Wenyu Yao. "Looks like the macro is winning at the moment."
Factory-gate prices in China fell in August at the quickest pace in three years, reinforcing the pressure on Beijing to step up economic stimulus as the trade war intensifies.
Customs data on Sunday showed China's unwrought copper imports fell in August after a bounce the previous month.
COPPER CHINA: Refined copper cathode production by major Chinese smelters fell 0.5% in August from a month earlier, according to a survey of producers by research house Antaike. STIMULUS: In the latest attempt to shore up China's slowing economy, the central bank said last week it was cutting the amount of cash banks must hold as reserves for the third time this year, releasing 900 billion yuan ($126 billion) in liquidity.
NICKEL: Production of nickel ore in the Philippines rose 3% in the first half of 2019 to 11.31 million tonnes, its Mines and Geosciences Bureau said, even though more than half the country's mines didn't produce any.
The Philippine producer Marcventures Holdings said it plans to develop a new mine slated to begin commercial operation by 2021, seeking to take advantage of Indonesia's nickel export ban, which has been brought forward by two years.
PRICES: LME nickel was flat at $18,045 a tonne, still trading near five-year highs touched last week on lingering concern over potential shortages.
JAKARTA CONFERENCE: Traders in nickel, which is used to make stainless steel and electric vehicle batteries, have started arriving in Indonesia for the Asian Nickel conference.
POSITIONING: The net speculative long position on LME nickel reached a two-year high at 43% of open interest, or 75,000 lots, on Sept. 5, brokerage Marex Spectron estimated.
OTHER METALS: Aluminium ended 1.2% higher at $1,820 a tonne after touching its highest since July 31, zinc gained 1.2% to hit $2,337, lead rose 0.3% to $2,100.50, and tin added 0.6% to reach $17,400.
(Additional reporting by Tom Daly in Beijing; editing by David Goodman, Uttaresh.V and David Clarke)