February 2, 2016 / 10:26 AM / 4 years ago

METALS-Copper slides after hitting 4-week high on short-covering

* Copper supply cuts coming into view

* Zinc prices boosted by expectations of tighter supplies

* LME data shows large holdings of lead warrants

* Coming up: New York ISM due at 1445 GMT (Adds closing prices)

By Pratima Desai

LONDON, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Copper hit a four-week high on Tuesday as bets on lower prices were reversed ahead of a Chinese holiday, but prices fell later in the day as focus returned to oversupply and weak demand growth in top consumer China.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange ended down 0.3 percent to $4,548 a tonne. The metal used in power and construction earlier touched $4,628 a tonne, its highest since January 7.

Traders and funds covering short positions ahead of the week-long Chinese Lunar New Year holiday starting on Monday were said to be behind the earlier price surge.

“The overall picture for copper is bearish,” said Barclays’ commodities analyst Dane Davis.

“The Chinese holiday means the entire country shuts down. I would caution against interpreting price swings in February as we really don’t know what’s going on with the fundamentals.”

Copper demand growth slowed to around 2 percent last year in China, which accounted for nearly half of global consumption estimated at around 22 million tonnes. This year is unlikely to see much of an improvement, analysts say.

China’s manufacturing activity contracted at its fastest pace in almost three-and-a-half years in January, an official survey showed, suggesting growth is off to a weak start in 2016.

Last year mining giants Glencore and Freeport as well as Poland’s KGHM announced plans to suspend some copper production.

But more cuts are needed to move the market towards balance.

“Rising technical outages due to falling sustaining capex, accelerating ore grade depletion, African copper belt power supply constraints, and sustained negative operating margins prompting economic capacity closures will again be key to mine supply in 2016,” Citi said in a note.

Three-month aluminium lost 1.3 percent to $1,501.

Zinc closed up 1.6 percent at $1,674. It earlier touched a two-month high of $1,685.50 as the market factored in tighter supplies. Zinc prices are up more than 15 percent since Jan. 12.

News that a large U.S. zinc producer Horsehead Holding had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy helped boost sentiment.

Lead gained 1.3 percent to $1,755. Worries about supplies due to large holdings of LME warrants lifted the battery metal to a four-week high of $1,770.

LME data shows one firm holding between 30-40 percent of lead warrants and another with a dominant position holding between 50-80 percent.

Nickel slid 0.7 percent to $8,400 a tonne and tin fell 0.2 percent at $14,775.

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 (Additional reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Susan Thomas and Greg Mahlich)

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