* China copper imports rise in April from March
* Indonesia’s tin exports back on radar (Adds closing prices)
By Pratima Desai
LONDON, May 8 (Reuters) - Copper was softer on Friday, but signs of robust demand from top consumer China helped support prices, while the tin market focussed on expectations of tighter supplies due to Indonesian export cuts.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange was untraded at the close, but bid at $6,385 a tonne from Thursday’s close at $6,400.
China’s copper imports fell 4.4 percent year-on-year in April. But arrivals of anode, refined copper, copper alloys and semi-finished copper products stood at 430,000 tonnes in April, the highest monthly imports since April 2014 and up 4.9 percent from 410,000 tonnes in March.
“China’s trade data suggests its copper demand will remain pretty healthy,” said Nic Brown, head of commodities research at Natixis. “But we’re going to see it predominantly in terms of imports of concentrate, which remain solid. Imports of refined copper are solid without being spectacular.”
Clues to Chinese demand for industrial metals will come next week with data on industrial production and investment.
Aluminium was bid at $1,889, from $1,883 on Thursday. It is expected to come under pressure from higher China exports.
However, expectations of higher supplies have widened the discount or contango for the cash contract over the three-month future to $29 a tonne, from a premium in April.
“We may see the contango widen to the extent that it again encourages a renewal of some of those financing deals coming to maturity,” a trader said.
The profitability of financing deals where investors sell aluminium for delivery at a forward date has recently been severely diminished by the narrowing discount or premium.
Zinc ended at $2,355 from $2,378, lead at $2,040 from $2,077 and nickel at $14,300 from $14,140.
Tin closed at $15,900 from $15,975. It is expected to gather strength from falling tin shipments from top exporter Indonesia.
Also a plus is an agreement by Indonesian tin smelters to cap total monthly exports at 4,500 tonnes.
“Of perhaps greater significance ... however are the maintenance shutdowns taking place at Yunnan Tin and China Tin,” Standard Bank said in a note.
“As such, and with little alternative to process tin ore from Myanmar, some 9,500 (tonnes) of refined tin, or around 2.5 percent of global supply will be removed from the market during the second quarter.”
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
Three month LME tin (Editing by William Hardy/Ruth Pitchford)