* China refined nickel imports surge by 44.6 percent in Aug
* China refined zinc imports slump by a quarter in Aug
* ShFE nickel OI climbs as fresh longs emerge-trader
* Coming Up: US Initial jobless claims at 1230 GMT (Adds comment, detail, updates prices)
By Melanie Burton
MELBOURNE, Sept 22 (Reuters) - London nickel jumped on Thursday to its highest in six weeks as investors bet that mine suspensions in the Philippines will crimp supply to China and after China imported more metal.
London copper hit its highest in a month and other metals also rallied as the dollar dropped after the United States stood pat on interest rates but signalled it could still tighten policy once this year.
A dozen more Philippine mines, mostly nickel projects, are in danger of being suspended in an ongoing environmental crackdown on the sector, an environment undersecretary said on Wednesday.
The Philippines is the biggest nickel ore supplier to China’s stainless steel mills. Lower ore supplies mean the mills may have to resort to using more expensive, refined nickel instead, a prospect that played out in China’s August trade breakdown release on Thursday.
China imported 44.6 percent more refined nickel in August that the year before at 29,809 tonnes, customs data showed.
Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) “open interest in copper and nickel has been increasing this morning which we see as fresh longs,” said a trader in Singapore.
London Metal Exchange nickel struck $10,520 a tonne on Thursday, its most expensive since August 12. It reached a one-year high of $11,030 on Aug. 10.
LME copper struck $4,813 a tonne, the highest since Aug. 19.
On the ShFE, nickel rallied 1.5 percent, while copper climbed 0.9 percent to 37,650 yuan ($5,646) a tonne. Shanghai tin and aluminium rallied about 1.5 percent.
The U.S. Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged on Wednesday, but strongly signalled it could still tighten monetary policy by the end of this year as the labour market improved further.
The dollar hit a near four-week low against the yen on Thursday after the Fed decision.
A softer dollar boost the buying power of commodities’ users paying in other currencies.
In other metals, China’s copper imports slumped by 11.7 percent from a year ago while its exports more than trebled to 57,260 tonnes. China has been exporting surplus refined copper to Asian markets, as warehouses offer attractive incentives.
China also imported sharply less zinc, at 25,305 tonnes in August it was down by a quarter from the year earlier period. Analysts have been expecting China to ramp up imports of the metal to feed galvanisers, as it produces less metal due to shrinking mine supply.
Elsewhere, ICBC Standard Bank has cut back its base metals business and the global head of the operation has departed, three sources close to the bank said.
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 = 6.6689 Chinese yuan renminbi $1 = 6.6690 Chinese yuan renminbi Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Michael Perry