October 13, 2015 / 7:19 AM / 5 years ago

METALS-London copper takes breather from rally; China imports support

* China infrastructure spending to support copper demand

* LME Week continues with industry dinner on Tuesday (Adds details, updates prices)

By Melanie Burton

MELBOURNE, Oct 13 (Reuters) - London copper slipped on Tuesday, falling away from a three-week top as traders took profits after China trade data offered a mixed report on its economy, but showed good demand for copper.

China’s exports fell less than expected in September, with monthly figures showing recovery, but a sharper fall in imports left economists divided over whether the country’s ailing trade sector is showing signs of turning around.

“There’s a little bit of concern about China’s import demand through Sept considering the weak PMIs,” said analyst Daniel Hynes of ANZ in Sydney.

“Perhaps traders are using this as an excuse to take a little bit of profit.”

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange slipped by 0.8 percent to $5,277 a tonne by 0600 GMT, after gaining nearly 0.5 percent in the previous session. Copper on Friday jumped 3 percent to its highest since mid-Sept at $5,356 a tonne.

Shanghai Futures Exchange copper ended down 0.8 percent at 39,750 yuan ($6,276) a tonne. Shfe nickel and zinc erased losses to close nearly flat.

China’s monthly copper imports surged a third in September, hitting a 20-month high after staying flat in the previous three months, as price differentials favoured spot purchases and some shipments arrived ahead of the week-long Oct. 1 holiday.

Imports of anode, refined copper, copper alloys and semi-finished copper products stood at 460,000 tonnes in September, the highest since January 2014.

A deluge of data from China in coming weeks is likely to point to further weakness in the world’s second-largest economy, reinforcing expectations that Beijing will roll out more stimulus measures to ward off a sharper slowdown.

Investors are betting on more stimulus measures at China’s plenum later in October, with a boost to infrastructure spending flagging more metals demand.

“(China) sped up infrastructure project approvals in September with 25 projects approved which include three city subways, 13 highways and 8 railway projects,” said broker Argonaut in a note.

“All of these we believe will boost infrastructure investment growth to 20 pct year on year in 2015... supporting demand for raw materials.

Transportation equipment accounts for 10 pct of copper demand in China, Argonaut said.

LME nickel sank by 1.3 percent after a near five percent rally on Monday, when traders bet Glencore cut nickel output next, after it announced plans to cut copper and zinc production given multi-year lows for prices, which sparked a knee-jerk recovery in metals.

“The Glencore magic is over. I think specs may want to play the short side soon,” said a trader in Singapore.

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 = 6.3337 Chinese yuan renminbi Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Michael Perry and Anand Basu

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