* Copper firms as European shares turn positive, euro up
* China copper imports down, but analysts say still solid
* Coming Up; ECB interest rate decision due at 1145 GMT
(Recasts, updates prices and comments, changes dateline from SINGAPORE)
By Humeyra Pamuk
LONDON, June 10 (Reuters) - Copper steadied on Thursday supported by a stronger euro and equity markets while a drop in copper imports from China, the world's top consumer, capped further gains.
China's copper imports at around 397,000 tonnes came in slightly below forecasts, but analysts had expected a drop from April's 436,345 tonnes as measures to cool growth rates and slow property speculation took hold. [ID:nTOE657073]
Copper CMCU3 for three months delivery on the London Metal Exchange was at $6,343 a tonne by 0941 GMT, versus $6,340 a tonne on Wednesday and after falling to a low of $6,222 a tonne, triggered by a fall in Wall Street overnight.
"I think some people have interpreted the copper data as bearish," said analyst David Thurtell at Citi. "But I think they're not bad. Copper imports close to 400,000 tonnes in any month is still pretty solid result," he said.
But some analysts did not agree completely.
"After the sharp bounce in risk assets following yesterday's leaked Chinese trade data for May, the actual numbers today ironically proved a little disappointing," said analyst Andrey Kryuchenkov at VTB Capital.
Chinese trade data leaked on Wednesday gave a boost to industrial metals as stronger Chinese exports data spurred optimism for the global recovery. [ID:nTOE65805R]
For a graphic showing China's copper imports, click: here
"It is still a healthy number and is reflective of the still strong underlying demand if you consider there's destocking going on in China," said analyst Gayle Berry at Barclays Capital.
Chinese demand was the major reason why copper prices more than doubled last year. The metal, used mainly in construction and wiring, has given up its gains after hitting a 20-month high above $8,000 a tonne in mid-April as China slowdown fears and worries eurozone economy weighed.
On Thursday, risk appetite across global markets looked improving with euro EUR= rising after the head of China's national pension fund said the currency would weather Europe's debt crisis and European shares turned positive. [FRX/] [.EU]
But the market did not make big bets ahead of interest rate decisions from Bank of England (BoE) and European Central Bank (ECB) due at 1100 GMT and 1145 GMT respectively, which could give clues about the policy direction in battling with eurozone's mounting debt problems.
"It'll be very interesting to hear what ECB would say," Thurtell said.
On the fundamentals front, which analysts say is largely ignored by the market for the moment, inventories for copper at LME registered warehouses dropped by 1,775 tonnes and 7,575 tonnes for aluminium.
Battery material lead CMPB3 was at $1,674,75 a tonne versus Wednesday's $1,680 a tonne while tin CMSN3 was at $16,500 a tonne from $16,300. Aluminium CMAL3 was at $1,941 a tonne from $1,927 and nickel CMNI3 eased to $19,200 from $19,270.
LME zinc CMZN3 fell 1.2 percent to $1,736 after rising 1.8 percent in the previous session. Zinc, the weakest performer amongst LME metals has lost one third of its value this year, under pressure from high stocks and worries about longer term surpluses.
For an analysis on zinc market, click on: [ID:nLDE6530SH] Metal Prices at 0945 GMT Metal Last Change Pct Move End 2009 Ytd Pct
move COMEX Cu 285.95 0.95 +0.33 334.65 -14.55 LME Alum 1940.00 13.00 +0.67 2230.00 -13.00 LME Cu 6340.00 0.00 +0.00 7375.00 -14.03 LME Lead 1670.00 -10.00 -0.60 2432.00 -31.33 LME Nickel 19120.00 -150.00 -0.78 18525.00 3.21 LME Tin 16475.00 545.00 +3.42 16950.00 -2.80 LME Zinc 1727.00 -30.00 -1.71 2560.00 -32.54 SHFE Alu 14405.00 -135.00 -0.93 17160.00 -16.05 SHFE Cu* 50690.00 270.00 +0.54 59900.00 -15.38 SHFE Zin 14120.00 -40.00 -0.28 21195.00 -33.38 ** 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 Nicholas Trevethan in Singapore, Editing by Alison Birrane)