METALS-Copper barely budges despite Trump's hint of quick trade deal

Peter Hobson

(Updates throughout, moves dateline from BEIJING)

LONDON, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Copper prices edged higher on Thursday as investors focused on a weak outlook for demand and were sceptical of a suggestion by U.S. President Donald Trump that he could soon reach a trade deal with China.

Trading activity was also low ahead of a week-long holiday in China, the biggest metals consumer, starting on Oct. 1.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was up 0.2% at $5,796.50 a tonne at 1025 GMT, from a two-year low of $5,518 at the start of the month.

Trade disputes and weakening economic growth have hit industrial metals prices despite deficits of some metals including copper.

"Many market players do not buy yesterday's argument (by Trump) that a trade deal may be imminent," said Commerzbank analyst Daniel Briesemann.

"They are waiting on the sidelines."

TRADE WAR: Trump said on Wednesday a deal to end a nearly 15-month trade war with China could happen sooner than people think.

CHINA MANUFACTURING: China's factory activity is expected to have contracted for a fifth straight month in September, a Reuters poll showed, adding to the country's economic woes.

COPPER STOCKS: On-warrant stocks of copper available to the market in LME-registered warehouses slid 20,725 tonnes to 163,200 tonnes, the lowest since April 25. <MCUSTX-TOTAL>

POSITIONING: Speculators held a short position in LME copper equal to 4% of open contacts as of Tuesday, down from 12% in June, brokers Marex Spectron said.

ZINC: Benchmark zinc was up 1.1% at $2,314 a tonne as on-warrant LME stocks sat at record lows and the premium for cash metal over the three-month contract rose to $20.25, the highest since early July, pointing to tighter nearby supply. <MZNSTX-TOTAL> <MZN0-3>

Zinc hit a three-year low of $2,190 this month. A supply squeeze has not pushed prices up more because investors expect supply to pick up over the coming months while demand remains weak, said analysts at ING.

NICKEL: Nickel rose 0.3% to $17,370 a tonne. On-warrant LME inventories this week hit the lowest since 2008 and the premium for cash over three-month metal at $151.40 was heading towards a decade high above the $200 reached last week. <MNISTX-TOTAL> <MNI0-3>

ALUMINA: The Chinese city of Luliang imposed a temporary 50% production cut on alumina refineries, sending spot alumina prices in North China <SMM-ALM-NCHN> to a 2-1/2-month high.

OTHER METALS: Aluminium was down 0.3% at $1,746.50 a tonne, lead was 0.3% higher at $2,114 and tin was up 0.1% at $16,540.

(Reporting by Peter Hobson; Additional reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Pravin Char)