* China copper imports slide 16 pct in May
* Drop as expected but demand concerns remain -analyst
* Firm dollar, CFTC data also pressure copper prices (Updates prices)
By A. Ananthalakshmi
SINGAPORE, June 8 (Reuters) - London copper futures rose on Monday, shrugging off data showing an expected drop in imports by China, but a weak seasonal demand outlook at the top consumer kept prices of the metal near their lowest since late April.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange was up 0.3 percent at $5,952.50 a tonne by 0704 GMT, not far above Friday’s trough of $5,885, its weakest since April 23.
The most-traded August copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange closed up 0.3 percent at 43,160 yuan ($6,956.58) a tonne.
China’s imports of copper fell 16.3 percent from a month ago to 360,000 tonnes in May, data from the General Administration of Customs showed. Imports in the first four months of the year had slid 14.7 percent from a year ago.
“The drop in imports was within market expectations. It was already priced in,” said Guo Hao, an analyst at Jinrui Futures in Shenzhen.
“Copper prices will remain in the downward trend due to lower imports, seasonally weak demand in June and a stronger dollar,” Guo said, adding that the possibility of further loosening of monetary policy in China would lend some support.
Data on Monday also showed China’s exports in May fell less than expected but a double-digit drop in imports will likely keep the pressure on Beijing for more stimulus to avert a sharper economic slowdown.
But in the near term, concerns over copper demand could keep prices under pressure. The strongest quarter for demand in China, the world’s top copper consumer, is passing its peak, with factories eyeing a summer production slowdown.
A firm dollar is also keeping a lid on the price of commodities priced in the greenback by making them more expensive for holders of other currencies.
The dollar traded near 13-year highs against the yen after strong U.S. employment data bolstered expectations for an interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve before year-end.
Investor sentiment was bearish. Hedge funds and money managers all but eradicated a bullish bet in Comex copper during the week ended June 2, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) data showed on Friday.
Non-commercial dealers slashed their net long stance in copper futures and options by 24,093 contracts to 4,221 contracts, according to the CFTC. The cut brought their net long to its lowest since mid-March.
Shanghai nickel was the day’s outperformer, climbing 1.8 percent to close at 100,570 yuan a tonne, just off a session high of 100,600 yuan.
Three month LME copper
Most active ShFE copper
Three month LME aluminium
Most active ShFE aluminium
Three month LME zinc
Most active ShFE zinc
Three month LME lead
Most active ShFE lead
Three month LME nickel
Most active ShFE nickel
Three month LME tin
Most active ShFE tin ($1 = 6.2042 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Additional reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Richard Pullin)