July 21, 2015 / 7:51 AM / 5 years ago

METALS-London nickel jumps after China boosts imports

* Copper market swings into 81,000 T deficit in April - ICSG

* Aluminium contango widens, financing deals pick up

* Coming Up: U.S. Weekly Redbook retail sales at 1255 GMT (Recasts, rewrites throughout)

By Melanie Burton

MELBOURNE, July 21 (Reuters) - London nickel jumped on Tuesday after China trade data showed imports of the stainless steel material more than doubled in June, raising hopes that a highly anticipated supply shortfall may finally be beginning to bite.

China’s refined nickel imports surged by 244 percent on the year in June, to almost 40,000 tonnes, trade data showed.

“We would expect the lack of Indonesian ore imports to start to have an impact... although the timing has been difficult to pin down,” said analyst Robin Bhar of Societe Generale in London.

“Maybe at least the much hoped for tightening in supply is starting to begin.”

Banks and traders have bet that China will have to pick up the pace of refined nickel imports since Indonesia banned ore exports last year, to sate the appetite of its vast stainless steel industry.

But with little sign mills were starved of feed, several investment banks, including Macquarie have recently slashed their 2015 nickel price forecasts by 13 percent.

Benchmark nickel on the London Metal Exchange jumped 1.8 percent to $11,905 a tonne by 0722 GMT, while Shanghai nickel surged 3.3 percent.

London copper also picked up pace, as China’s June imports held steady despite slowing growth in demand.

Metals in general have faced headwinds as bets that the United States would hike interest rates this year buoyed the dollar and reduced the allure of many commodities.

“On the demand side, over the short term, there is a summer lull and the dollar is increasing so the market view is to short copper,” said analyst Helen Lau of Argonaut Securities in Hong Kong.

“But the reality is that in the second half, the overall situation in China is improving - we have already spotted some recovery in the housing market. So that’s why we think we have reached the bottom for the price.”

LME copper climbed 0.4 percent to $5,504 a tonne. It ended flat in the previous session after falling to its lowest in a fortnight. Shanghai copper edged up 0.4 percent.

The global world refined copper market showed an 81,000 tonnes deficit in April, compared with a surplus in March, the International Copper Study Group (ICSG) said.

“Nothing seems to point to tightness for the time being as summer is in full swing,” broker Triland said.

In wider markets, the Greek government submitted legislation to parliament on Tuesday required by its international lenders to start talks on a multi-billion euro rescue package.

LME aluminium slipped after the trade data showed that China continued to ramp up exports of semi finished aluminium products, despite a drop in global prices that had eroded profits of shipping metal overseas.

PRICES

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 = 6.2095 Chinese yuan renminbi Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Ryan Woo and Biju Dwarakanath

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