September 17, 2015 / 2:48 AM / 5 years ago

METALS-Copper strikes 8-week top after Chile quake

(Adds detail, updates prices)

* Codelco, Antofagasta suspend some operations

* Anglo American, BHP, KGHM say no impact from quake

* Coming up: U.S. housing starts, building permits Aug at 1230 GMT

By Melanie Burton

MELBOURNE, Sept 17 (Reuters) - London copper popped to its highest in nearly two months on Thursday after a large earthquake that struck Chile triggered concerns over supply disruptions, before tailing back on persistent worries over China’s economy.

A magnitude 8.3 earthquake hit off the coast of Chile, shaking buildings in the capital city of Santiago and generating a tsunami warning for Chile and Peru, the world’s top two suppliers of copper.

State copper miner Codelco and Antofagasta PLC suspended operations at two major copper mines threatening over 600,000 tonnes of annual capacity.

Codelco halted open-pit operations at its large Andina mine and evacuated workers at its smaller Las Ventanas refining and smelting division, while Antofagasta said it had temporarily closed its flagship Los Pelambres mine, and would wait until daybreak to assess the damage.

“It’s probably going to wash out pretty quickly given there’s no real production impact (so far),” said analyst Matt Fusarelli at AME Group in Sydney.

London Metal Exchange copper hit its highest level since July 22 at $5,440.50 a tonne, before trimming gains to 0.1 percent at $5,384.50 by 0754 GMT.

Shares of miners such as BHP Billiton also spiked higher alongside copper prices. BHP, the majority owner and operator of the world’s biggest copper mine, Escondida, said its operations in Chile had not been affected.

Anglo American said its Los Bronces and other mines in Chile were operating normally after the earthquake while KGHM also said its co-owned Sierra Gorda copper had not been negatively affected.

Dragging on metals, China stocks closed lower, reflecting still sour sentiment towards the country’s growth prospects and jitters over its corruption probe.

Shanghai Futures Exchange copper climbed by nearly 2 percent before also cutting gains to end up 0.9 percent at 40,990 yuan ($6,438) a tonne. It briefly snapped resistance at the 100-day moving average of 41,163, but support did not hold.

As China’s slowdown hits demand for metals in traditional sectors such as housing and heavy industry, copper is being offered a lifeline: massive plans to expand solar and wind power in the world’s second-biggest economy.

Traders were also cutting risk ahead of the Federal Reserve rate decision later in the session which has deeply divided Wall Street’s top economists.

In other metals, LME zinc sagged 1.5 percent, weighed by a surprisingly large run up in LME inventories that pushed back expectations of a market deficit.

LME nickel fell 1.7 percent. The global nickel market surplus rose to 10,300 tonnes in July from a revised surplus of 7,800 tonnes the previous month, the International Nickel Study Group said.

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 = 6.3694 Chinese yuan Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Richard Pullin and Biju Dwarakanath

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