January 10, 2012 / 1:27 PM / 8 years ago

METALS-Copper up on strong China import data

(Updates with closing prices)	
    * China copper imports up 12.6 pct in December
    * Easing credit conditions boost metals prices
    * Japan's biggest copper smelter suspends operations after fire

    By Silvia Antonioli	
    LONDON, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Copper rose 3 percent on Tuesday as strong
import data from top metals consumer China brightened the outlook for metals
demand and lifted market sentiment, although concerns about the debt situation
in the euro zone kept gains in check.	
    Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange closed at $7,745 per tonne
versus a close of $7,496 on Monday.	
    China's imports of copper rose 12.6 percent to a record high in December
from the previous month, official data showed, as arbitrage and financing
opportunities burnished the metal's appeal.  	
    "The copper numbers have definitely surprised on the upside," said Gayle
Berry, an analyst at Barcap. "This helped to quell some of the worries about
slowing metals demand ...It suggests some fears were overdone."	
    Pan Pacific Copper, Japan's biggest copper smelter, said on Tuesday it
suspended operations at its 200,000 tonnes per year Saganoseki smelter on Jan. 7
after a fire damaged an electric power substation on the site. 	
    This highlights concerns over supply tightness in the copper market, also
helping to keep prices afloat.	
    A rebound in the euro versus the dollar also supported. A weaker dollar
makes dollar-priced assets, like industrial metals, more attractive to holders
of other currencies.	
    But the euro could come under pressure later this week ahead of Italian and
Spanish debt auctions, which will give some signs of the state of the European
debt situation. 	
    A deteriorating debt crisis and tighter credit conditions in the euro zone
have affected the region's economic outlook and put metals, among other assets
deemed as risky, under selling pressure.	
    This week, however, some easing signals from the credit market helped
    "Yesterday we started to see some interbank market pressure easing," said
T-commodity consultant Gianclaudio Torlizzi.	
    "Loans demand from the European Central Bank has decreased significantly,
and the German central bank sold bonds with a negative interest rate,
highlighting that the ECB liquidity boost is starting to have some effect," he
    Should the market continue to send positive signals, it would benefit the
euro and consequently metals prices, he added.	
    Chinese imports of aluminium also rose in December, and this underpinned
aluminium prices, which have also been helped by news of production cuts.
    Last week, Alcoa Inc, the largest U.S. producer of aluminium, was the
first to announce a cutback in response to steep aluminium price falls, slashing
annual global smelting capacity by 12 percent. 	
    Analysts expect more aluminium companies to follow in Alcoa's footsteps in
the next few months and cut production, helping to reduce over-supply and
support prices. 	
    "Aluminium production cuts are emerging at a much higher price level than
what we saw in 2008, when $1,500 was the cost-support level," Berry said.	
    "$2,000 is where we have begun to see production cuts (recently) as
operational costs have continued to increase in the last few years."	
    Aluminium closed at $2,164 a tonne from $2,108.	
    Tin closed at $20,275 from $19,800 while zinc was $1,930
from $1,879 at Monday's close. Lead closed at $1,989 from $1,966 and
nickel at $19,505 from $19,100.	
 Metal Prices at 1703 GMT
 Comex copper in cents/lb, LME prices in $/T and SHFE prices in yuan/T
  Metal            Last      Change  Pct Move   End 2010   Ytd Pct
  COMEX Cu       350.75        9.30     +2.72     444.70    -21.13
  LME Alum      2159.25       51.25     +2.43    2470.00    -12.58
  LME Cu        7722.25      226.25     +3.02    9600.00    -19.56
  LME Lead      1994.75       28.75     +1.46    2550.00    -21.77
  LME Nickel   19480.00      380.00     +1.99   24750.00    -21.29
  LME Tin      20225.00      425.00     +2.15   26900.00    -24.81
  LME Zinc      1921.25       42.25     +2.25    2454.00    -21.71
  SHFE Alu     16070.00      125.00     +0.78   16840.00     -4.57
  SHFE Cu*     55870.00      380.00     +0.68   71850.00    -22.24
  SHFE Zin     14920.00      180.00     +1.22   19475.00    -23.39
 ** Benchmark month for COMEX copper
 * 3rd contract month for SHFE AL, CU and ZN
 SHFE ZN began trading on 26/3/07
 (Additional reporting by Susan Thomas; editing by Jason Neely)
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