* Comex copper speculators cut long position in latest week
* Coming Up: U.S. Factory orders Jan at 1500 GMT (Adds detail, updates prices)
By Melanie Burton
MELBOURNE, March 6 (Reuters) - London copper edged down on Monday amid risk-off sentiment in broader markets, but supported by protracted disruptions at the world’s two biggest copper mines.
Asian shares were on the defensive on Monday as investors weighed the near-certain prospect of an interest rate hike in the United States this month against news of slower growth in China this year.
Risk appetite also took a hit on rising geo-political tensions in East Asia, as North Korea fired four ballistic missiles early in the day, while a spat between China and South Korea over missile defence deepened.
Indonesia will not back down from new rules requiring Freeport-McMoran to divest a majority stake in its local unit, its Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan said late last week in a dispute over rights to the world’s second-biggest copper mine that has frozen exports.
Meanwhile, Chile expects economic activity growth to be hit by around one percentage point in February because of a strike at world no.1 copper mine Escondida, as copper output slides 12 percent year-on-year.
“We expect copper to move into a deficit this year, the key drivers being a dramatically slowing rate of mine supply growth ... and a stabilizing demand picture,” Citi said in a report. “We do think we can see price peaks of close to $7,000 a tonne this year.”
London copper was down 0.3 percent at $5,900 a tonne by 0703 GMT, after closing slightly softer in the previous session.
Prices have been trading around $5,800-$6,200 a tonne for most of the last month, having jumped to a 20-month top at $6,204 on Feb. 13 after disruptions worsened at Escondida.
Shanghai Futures Exchange copper slipped by 0.5 percent to 47,890 yuan ($6,945) a tonne.
The dollar declined from recent strength on profit taking, after the Federal Reserve’s long-stalled ‘liftoff’ of interest rates looked to finally get airborne this year as policymakers from Chair Janet Yellen on Friday to regional leaders across the United States signalled that the era of easy money is drawing to a close.
China has cut its growth target this year as the world’s second-largest economy pushes through painful reforms to address a rapid build-up in debt, and erects a “firewall” against financial risks.
The report dragged Shanghai zinc, aluminium and lead down more than 2 percent.
Elsewhere, the biggest conference for explorers and developers kicked off in Canada, with some industry experts predicting that recovering mineral and metal prices will further improve the fortunes of small miners.
Speculators cut their bullish position in Comex copper futures and options by 7,851 lots to 70,660 lots, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data showed on Friday.
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 = 6.8954 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Richard Pullin and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)