July 22, 2015 / 1:51 AM / 5 years ago

METALS-London copper hits two-week low as Chinese demand struggles

* Chinese copper demand growth to slow to 0.5 pct this year-AME

* Higher Chinese nickel imports may be due to stockpiling - StanChart

* Coming Up: US Existing Home Sales for June at 1200 GMT (Adds comment, detail, updates prices)

By Melanie Burton

MELBOURNE, July 22 (Reuters) - London copper slid to two-week lows on Wednesday, reflecting plentiful supply and persistent concern over industrial demand in top consumer China.

China’s industrial sector still faces significant problems and “arduous efforts” are needed to stabilise the economy, the industry ministry said on Wednesday.

“We were always expecting this to be a weaker year for China,” said analyst Matt Fusarelli of AME Group in Sydney.

AME expects Chinese demand for copper to grow just 0.5 percent this year, down from more than 13 percent last year, and it has recently revised down its copper price forecast.

“Building starts haven’t picked up to the degree we would have expected ... and a more certain tightening cycle by the Fed is not going to endear itself to holders of copper, either.”

The construction sector is a major user of copper in wiring and consumer goods in a country that accounts for 45 percent of global demand.

London Metal Exchange copper fell as low as $5,352.50 a tonne, its weakest since July 8 when it slumped to a six-year low of $5,240 a tonne. It traded down 1.4 percent at $5,377 a tonne at 0746 GMT.

Traders said another tilt at 2015 lows was possible, given selling into the recent rally, and was more likely if Chinese equities sell off again. But falling prices should be met with buying support: “Consumers are quick to come to the table down there,” said a trader in Singapore.

Spot copper may be in ample supply, but risks loom over mining operations as low prices eat into margins and deteriorating ore grades shrink quality supply.

BHP Billiton reported unchanged 2014/15 annual copper output of 1.7 million tonnes but forecast a 12 percent decline in output this fiscal year to 1.5 million tonnes due to lower grade ore at its Escondida mine.

Workers employed by service contractors at Chile’s state-owned Codelco went on strike on Tuesday to demand the right to collectively negotiate a benefits package.

Shanghai Futures Exchange copper, zinc, lead and tin all fell around 2 percent.

LME tin slid almost 4 percent at one stage, eroding last week’s 9 percent gains, as China continued to ramp up imports from Myanmar.

ShFE nickel fell more than 1 percent, cutting into a 3 percent advance in the previous session after China’s nickel imports jumped in June, which may reflect an impending supply shortfall in the world’s top stainless steel producer.

Standard Chartered said the jump in imports probably reflected stockpiling rather than a domestic shortfall, but it noted the sharp contrast to the destocking trend of the past 18 months.

“This suggests to us that being short nickel at current prices is unattractive.”

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 = 6.2081 Chinese yuan Editing by Richard Pullin and Alan Raybould

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