December 4, 2017 / 11:30 AM / 2 years ago

METALS-Nickel boosted by China steel but dollar caps gains

* Short-term buying opportunity in aluminium -analyst

* Lead touches seven-week high, closes lower

* LME/ShFE arb: bit.ly/2wZSAEz (Updates with closing prices)

By Eric Onstad

LONDON, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Nickel gained on Monday as the metal mainly used in stainless steel got a boost after Chinese steel futures touched three-month highs, but a firmer dollar capped the rise.

Steel and iron ore contracts in Shanghai surged on Monday as government-ordered steel production cutbacks to reduce pollution led to tighter supplies for some mill products.

The stronger prices might not last long because eventually the steel production cutbacks during the peak Chinese smog season in the winter would mean less need for nickel, Caroline Bain, chief commodities economist at Capital Economics, said.

Benchmark nickel on the London Metal Exchange closed 0.8 percent higher at $11,385 a tonne, paring gains after touching an intraday high of $11,470.

Capital Economics expects nickel - which has declined by 12 percent from a two-year peak of $13,030 hit on Nov. 1 - to end this year at $10,750.

Other metals are also likely to see a modest amount of further downside, Bain added.

“There’s quite a lot of speculation in the market and we think there’s over-optimism about the strength of Chinese demand,” she said.

“I think there are clear signs now that the economy is cooling, particularly in the metals-intensive industries.”

* DOLLAR: Weighing on the wider metals complex was a rebound in the dollar after the U.S. Senate approved a tax overhaul at the weekend. A firmer dollar makes commodities priced in the greenback more expensive to buyers using other currencies.

* COPPER: LME three month copper dipped 0.1 percent to finish at $6,826 a tonne.

“Whilst China property concerns remain, steady global growth expectations coupled with on-going mine supply disruptions are likely to lend support on dips with $6,550-$6,650 the bottom of a new range,” Alastair Munro at broker Marex Spectron said.

* CHINA: China’s economic growth target for 2018 will reflect new changes in the economy as the government puts more emphasis on higher quality development, the State Council Information Office said on Monday.

Policy sources have told Reuters that China’s leaders are likely to maintain this year’s growth target of “around 6.5 percent” in 2018.

* ALUMINIUM: LME aluminium fell 0.3 percent to end at $2,069 a tonne. China’s central Shanxi province has introduced new rules curbing water use for steel, cement and aluminium production, state media reported.

* TECHNICALS: There was a short-term buying opportunity in aluminium, which may break above horizontal resistance of $2,110/$2,190, ING technical analyst Roelof-Jan van den Akker said in a note. “This would suggest a rise towards the next strong horizontal resistance area at $2,332.”

* PRICES: Lead dropped 1.5 percent to close at $2,507 a tonne, reversing in the afternoon session after touching a seven-week high of $2,560 in the morning.

Zinc shed 2.2 percent to finish at $3,178 a tonne while tin rose 0.4 percent to $19,525.

Reporting by Eric Onstad; Editing by Alexander Smith and David Evans

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