Wires

METALS-Planned U.S.-China trade talks help copper steady

Pratima Desai

* GRAPHIC-2019 asset returns: http://tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl

* Premium for cash over 3-month nickel retreats to $125 a tonne (Updates prices)

LONDON, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Copper prices steadied on Tuesday as plans for a meeting between high-ranking U.S. and Chinese officials in two-weeks encouraged hopes for an end to the trade dispute and helped ease concern about demand prospects.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange ended little changed at $5,780 a tonne. Prices of the metal used by investors as a gauge of economic health fell to a 2-1/2-week low of $5,718 a tonne on Monday.

"A lot of the negative impact of the trade war is already built into prices of copper and other industrial metals," said SP Angel analyst John Meyer. "Every time the market thinks a deal may not be too far away, prices pick up."

TRADE: U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday that he and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer would meet Chinese Vice Premier Liu He for trade talks in two weeks.

TECHNICALS: Support for copper is around $5,780 where the 21-day moving average sits. Resistance is at the 50-day moving average of $5,830 and the 100-day moving average of $5,885.

DEMAND: Activity in China's manufacturing sector is highly correlated with industrial metals demand.

CHINA: China is in no rush to follow other countries in significantly loosening monetary policy but has ample options to help prop up slowing growth, its central bank said, maintaining a cautious approach to stimulating the economy.

Despite a slew of growth measures since last year, the world's second-largest economy has yet to stabilise. Analysts expect growth could cool further this quarter from a near 30-year low of 6.2% hit in April-June.

STIMULUS: China will step up efforts to stabilise growth, Ning Jizhe, a vice head of the state planner, said on Tuesday, adding that authorities will speed up construction of investment projects and relax restrictions on auto purchases.

DEFICIT: Weaker demand for copper can be seen in data from the International Copper Study Group showing the global refined copper market recorded a 21,000-tonne deficit in June, compared with a 70,000-tonne deficit in May.

NICKEL: The premium for the cash over the three-month contract <MNI0-3> soared to $205 a tonne on Friday, its highest since April 2009, on concerns about nearby supplies on the LME market. It was last at $115 a tonne.

The worries are due to two companies holding large amounts of nickel warrants <0#LME-WHL>, historically low stocks below 160,000 tonnes and cancelled warrants - metal earmarked for delivery - at nearly 60% of the total <MNISTX-TOTAL>.

Three-month nickel closed down 1.7% at $17,180.

PRICES: Aluminium fell 1.3% to $1,762.5 a tonne, zinc was down 2.1% to $2,282, lead slipped 1.3% to $2,057 and tin lost 0.2% to $16,500. (Reporting by Pratima Desai; additional reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by David Evans and Edmund Blair)