* Chinese copper imports hit four-month low in June
* China’s property market recovery key for copper -analyst
* One party controls 40-50 pct of lead inventories -LME data (Updates with closing prices)
By Eric Onstad
LONDON, July 13 (Reuters) - Most base metals rebounded on Monday after Greece and its creditors agreed a debt deal, though copper lagged after data showed a drop in Chinese imports last month.
Lead was the pick of the bunch, with prices surging to their highest in nearly a month on worries about a potential short-term squeeze in inventories.
The London Metal Exchange joined other markets in reacting with relief to news that euro zone leaders had clinched a deal with Greece after all-night talks at an emergency summit.
Three-month LME lead jumped 3 percent to close at$1,844 a tonne, its highest since June 15, after LME data showed one party has taken control of between 40 percent and 50 percent of LME lead inventories worth about $130 million.
“There’s some determined buying going on. We’re still wondering what’s the real story behind the stock movements recently,” one London trader said.
The exchange does not provide the identity of the parties holding large positions, but often investors or traders will buy up inventories hoping to profit from looming shortages.
Copper was virtually flat, rising $1 or 0.02 percent to finish at $5,591 a tonne, safely above six-year lows struck last week at $5,240 a tonne.
“The Greek crisis had been weighing on sentiment; nobody was quite sure which way it would go,” said Caroline Bain, senior commodities economist at Capital Economics. “But this morning the Chinese trade data must be weighing on copper a bit.”
Copper imports in China, the world’s biggest consumer of the metal, fell 2.8 percent in June from the previous month, hitting a four-month low amid weak seasonal demand.
Bain, however, expects a upturn in the coming months. “We’re starting to see signs of stimulus actually feeding through into the real economy, so we would expect import volumes to pick up in the second half of this year,” she said.
There was brighter news in overall Chinese trade data, with export sales up for the first time in four months in June.
Investors are now awaiting Chinese home price data due at the end of the week.
“China’s property sector has been the dominant driver of weak commodity prices in the past 12-24 months, and the property cycle has weakened this past year,” said Dan Morgan at UBS in Sydney.
Nickel surged 4.2 percent to end at $11,750 a tonne on bargain-hunting and short-covering, aluminium added 1 percent to $1,713, and tin closed up 2.8 percent at a two-week high of $14,650.
Zinc failed to trade in closing rings and was bid up 2.1 percent at $2,052, the highest since July 2.
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 in Melbourne; Editing by David Clarke and David Evans)