* Copper on track for first annual rise since 2012
* Focus on strong dollar, weak yuan and Toshiba (Adds closing prices)
By Pratima Desai
LONDON, Dec 29 (Reuters) - Copper prices were softer on Thursday alongside equities in thin holiday trade as markets fretted about the higher dollar and the potential for a liquidity crunch in top consumer China.
Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange ended 1 percent down at $5,487 a tonne, though still up from last week’s one-month low of $5,419.50.
But copper is on course for a gain of about 17 percent this year, which would be the first annual rise since 2012, mainly owing to better than expected demand in China and hopes of rising demand resulting from U.S. spending on infrastructure.
Much of that increase was because of buying by funds, many of which have been cutting bets on higher prices in recent weeks, partly because of the dollar’s climb to 14-year highs against a basket of major currencies.
A higher U.S. currency makes dollar-denominated commodities more expensive for non-U.S. firms. For China, it means a weaker yuan, capital outflows, potentially slower economic growth and liquidity stress in money markets.
“I would be reluctant to over-interpret these markets in this quiet holiday period, but there are a couple of key drivers: the strong dollar and stress in China’s financial markets,” said Danske Bank analyst Jens Pederson.
Copper broke above $6,000 a tonne in November after Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election and boosted hopes of infrastructure spending and higher consumption.
But the United States accounts for only about 8 percent of global demand estimated at about 22 million tonnes and focus has returned to China, which accounts for nearly half.
Also worrying traders was the potential fallout from Japanese tech-to-nuclear conglomerate Toshiba, shares in which have slumped since it announced this week that it faces a potential multibillion-dollar writedown.
“The problem is the potential for contagion into other equity markets, which inevitably would be felt in commodity markets,” one copper trader said.
Aluminium closed 1.5 percent down at $1,679, zinc fell 2.3 percent to $2,521, tin rose 0.8 percent to $21,050 and nickel was up 0.1 percent at $10,120.
Lead lost 2.9 percent to $1,970, having earlier touched a three-month low at $1,960 as funds cut bets on higher 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
Editing by Mark Potter and David Goodman