April 25, 2016 / 9:57 AM / 4 years ago

METALS-Industrial metals slide, jury still out on China demand

* Jury out on whether uptick in Chinese demand a trend

* Chinese aluminium smelters cautious about restarts (Adds closing prices)

By Pratima Desai

LONDON, April 25 (Reuters) - Prices of industrial metals slid on Monday as the market adopted a more cautious attitude towards demand growth in top consumer China, but losses were limited by the weaker dollar.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange ended down 0.7 percent at $4,998 a tonne. The metal, widely used in power and construction, touched $5,091 on Friday, its highest in more than 4 weeks.

“The jury is still out on whether this (last week’s high) is the usual seasonal uptick after the Chinese new year before the summer lull kicks in or whether this is really a genuine increase in demand,” Julius Baer analyst Carsten Menke said.

The rally, which has seen copper rise more than 6 percent so far this year, was triggered by funds reversing bets on short positions and strong investment, industrial production, loans and property market data in China.

China accounts for nearly half of global copper consumption estimated at around 22 million tonnes this year.

“The price recovery in copper has been argued as evidence that China has turned, and a new stimulus driven recovery is at hand,” Barclays said in a note.

“Having reviewed the most recent China downstream copper demand data, we are yet to find evidence of a permanent turn.”

The lower dollar makes dollar-denominated commodities cheaper for non-U.S. firms; a relationship used by funds which buy or sell using signals generated from numerical models.

Traders expect subdued volumes ahead of a meeting of U.S. Federal Reserve officials this week. Expectations are for interest rates to stay on hold.

Three-month aluminium rose 0.1 percent to $1,655. Last Friday it hit a near nine-month high of $1,667.50.

The most-traded aluminium for June delivery on the Shanghai Futures Exchange rose as far as 13,075 yuan ($2,010) a tonne, its strongest since July 2, 2015. It closed up 2.5 percent at 12,885 yuan.

Higher prices have raised expectations that Chinese aluminium smelters would reverse some output cuts, but analysts say they are being cautious.

Jackie Wang, analyst at CRU in Beijing, said the smelters had been careful in resuming output, fearing that restarts could again weigh heavily on prices.

“The other thing is restarts take time in China, probably about two to three months and it also costs a lot,” she said.

Zinc tumbled 1.5 percent to $1,880 a tonne, lead fell 1.9 percent to $1,757, tin was flat at $17,450 and nickel gained 0.3 percent to $9,130.

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 Manolo Serapio Jr; Editing by Mark Potter and Susan Thomas)

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