Wires

METALS-Shanghai aluminium slips after 7 days of gains on signs of demand slowdown

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BEIJING, Dec 26 (Reuters) - Shanghai aluminium prices fell in early trade on Thursday, heading for their first drop in eight days, on signs of a slowdown in demand ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday next month. Aluminium on the Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) firmed 2.3% in the seven trading days through Thursday, having hit a more than three-month high on Wednesday, on the back of low inventories. Stocks in warehouses monitored by the bourse <AL-STX-SGH> have declined more than 70% so far in the year and were at 193,820 tonnes on Dec. 20.

FUNDAMENTALS

* ALUMINIUM: The most traded February aluminium contract on the ShFE fell as much as 0.7% to 14,135 yuan ($2,020.87) a tonne and was at 14,155 yuan by 0234 GMT.

* COPPER: ShFE copper was flat at 49,530 yuan a tonne, after settling 0.5% higher on Wednesday.

* COPPER: China's top copper smelters are meeting in the southeastern city of Fuzhou on Thursday to set their floor treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs) for copper concentrate in the first quarter of 2020.

* LEAD: Shanghai lead was up 0.5% at 15,205 yuan a tonne after jumping as much as 1.4% to 15,340 yuan, its highest since Nov. 29, in overnight trading amid stockpiling and a smog alert in the province of Henan.

* NICKEL: China's monthly nickel ore imports from top miner Indonesia rose to a near six-year high in November although its overall intake fell, as buyers raced to secure as much material as possible ahead of a ban on Indonesian exports starting in January.

* SHFE: China's Shanghai Futures Exchange said on Tuesday it would relax trading position limits on its product contracts from next year in order to encourage trading activity and increase market participation.

* MAGNETS: China's exports of rare earth magnets to the United States fell 21.2% month-on-month, customs data showed on Wednesday, as improving trade relations between the two countries reduced demand for stockpiling.

* LME: The London Metal Exchange remains closed on Thursday for the Boxing Day holiday and will reopen on Friday.

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DATA/EVENTS (GMT)

*0500 GMT Japan Housing Starts YY Nov 1330 U.S. Initial Jobless Claims w/e Dec. 21 1330 U.S. Continued Jobless Claims w/e Dec. 14 Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda delivers speech at meeting of Japan's business lobby at 0400 GMT. The bank will then release a summary of opinions from board members at its Dec. 18-19 policy meeting at 2350 GMT

*approximate release time

PRICES

($1 = 6.9945 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)