December 22, 2016 / 8:10 AM / in 3 years

METALS-Copper hits 1-month low as China metal imports drop in Nov

* LME closed Dec. 26, 27

* China bonded copper premiums slip to $60-$70

* Coming up: U.S. durable goods Nov at 1330 GMT (Adds comment, detail; update prices)

By Melanie Burton

MELBOURNE, Dec 22 (Reuters) - London copper slipped to its lowest in more than a month on Thursday after trade data showed some Chinese metal imports dropped sharply in November, speeding up book-squaring ahead of year-end holidays.

China’s imports of refined copper, zinc and nickel fell by double-digit percentages in November, although aluminium shipments into the world’s top base metals producers jumped sharply, customs data showed on Thursday.

That soured sentiment towards metals that were already slipping given profit-taking and a subdued tone in wider markets.

Asian shares struggled, taking their cues from a lacklustre day on Wall Street as investors locked in gains ahead of the break, while China soothed worries of a year-end liquidity crunch.

At least one Chinese state lender provided liquidity support worth several billion yuan to fund management firms via short-term lending tools on Wednesday, two sources with knowledge of the matter said.

“Trading is slowly grinding to a halt ahead of the upcoming Christmas break and we expect more of the same through year-end,” analyst Ed Meir of INTL FCSTONE said n a report.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange had slipped 1.1 percent to $5,454.50 a tonne by 0723 GMT, having earlier its the lowest since Nov. 21 at $5,445.50 a tonne. Prices have still advanced some 16 percent this year after demand surpassed expectations.

China’s copper imports stood at 276,730 tonnes in November, slumping 22.86 percent from the same month a year earlier. Nickel imports lurched lower by 38.8 percent to 16,919 tonnes, zinc imports plunged 63.5 pct to 25,424 tonnes and tin imports tumbled 35.9 percent to 608 tonnes.

The figures accelerated a slide already underway in steel-making ingredients, dragging on some of the year’s top performing metals, with LME zinc and lead easing around 2 percent and LME nickel falling 1 percent.

Meanwhile, China’s zinc smelters are accepting record low fees to produce metal amid a shortage of ore, while winter mine closures are likely to force plants to cut output early next year, industry sources said on Wednesday.

Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) copper slipped 1.6

percent to 44,430 yuan ($6,396) a tonne.

Spot copper premiums in Shanghai bonded zone continue to slide lower to $60-$70 range as business quietens down into year-end, amid credit restriction from Chinese banks to traders, said broker Triland in a report.

ShFE zinc dropped 2.2 percent and nickel eased 2.8 percent as China steel prices retreated due to caution over future closures after five days of heavy pollution.

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 ($1 = 6.9466 Chinese yuan renminbi) ($1 = 6.9465 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Richard Pullin and Christian Schmollinger)

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