* Copper eases as global economic worries persist
* U.S. consumer sentiment falls to lowest in three decades
* Signs of pick-up in H2 Chinese copper imports-Codelco
* Coming up: U.S. housing data on Tuesday (Recasts, updates prices, market activity to New York close; adds second byline, dateline, previously LONDON)
By Chris Kelly and Pratima Desai
NEW YORK/LONDON, Aug 12 London copper prices ended a shade lower on Friday as global economic growth fears lingered and Chinese demand prospects remained unclear, but copper in New York crept up with equities to end less than a penny higher from the previous session.
With investors still worried about the global economy, losses stretched across the base metals complex, continuing the overwhelmingly bearish broader market tone over the past two weeks. The exception was tin, which rallied as much as 5 percent at one point during the session on worries about restricted supplies from Indonesia, the world's largest exporter.
Copper posted its first back-to-back weekly decline since early June, with total weekly trading volumes in New York up near their late-February record of 319,000 lots. (Graphic: link.reuters.com/kev23s )
Despite the global economic turmoil, Diego Hernandez, the chief executive of Chile's giant copper miner Codelco [CODEL.UL], remained "optimistic" that copper prices will remain at current levels until year-end, eyeing an uptick in second-half Chinese copper cathode imports. [ID:nSGO002285] [ID:nSGO002286]
Looking ahead into the coming week, metals are likely to remain tied to fluctuations in equities markets and could be affected by a stream of U.S. housing data. Short-term direction is likely to be muddied by thin trading during widespread holidays in most of mainland Europe on Monday.
"The wild swings in the equity markets are bound to continue at least for some time longer, making short-term forecasting even more difficult," analyst Ed Meir of MF Global said.
London Metal Exchange (LME) benchmark copper CMCU3 eased $16 to end at $8,865 a tonne, but managed to claw back from a weekly trough at $8,446.25, its lowest since early December of last year.
In New York, the key September COMEX contract HGU1 eked out a 0.35-cent gain to settle at $4.0120 per lb, supported by a firmer tone in equity markets and mildly encouraging retail sales in July, which helped to offset the weak consumer sentiment data. [.N]
U.S. consumer sentiment in early August dropped to its lowest level since 1980 as fears of a stalled recovery combined with despair over government policies, a survey released on Friday showed. [ID:nN1E77B08W]
"Any optimism is premature. We are not out of the woods yet, the economic path from now on is unclear," said Eugen Weinberg, commodities analyst at Commerzbank. "We've seen some bargain hunting, probably from the Chinese."
But it is uncertain to what extent China, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of global copper demand estimated at around 19 million tonnes this year, will come back to the market this year.
A slowdown in China rail investments, reports that China is cutting its target for the construction of public homes and the general impact of its tightening measures have all fueled concerns about the outlook for metals demand. [ID:nLDE77306U] [ID:nL3E7JB0J1]
"All these little bits are adding up," said David Wilson, an analyst at Societe Generale.
"There's plenty of copper in China. European consumer spending has fallen. I think people in Europe are going to be cutting back expenditure over the next few months because of nervousness about the state of growth," he added.
Global metal stocks: link.reuters.com/deg67n
LME stocks vs prices r.reuters.com/hub62s
In other metals, aluminium CMAL3 ended down $13 at $2,400 a tonne, with a lack of physical business compounding the softer market tone.
A physical trader said premiums have not changed in weeks, quoted at around $200-230 for duty-paid.
"It's the same as last week and the week before and the week before. It's just dead quiet," he said, adding that the massive influx into Vlissingen isn't having much of an impact on premiums. [ID:nL6E7JA0T2] [ID:nL6E7JB1F7]
Tin CMSN3 rallied 5 percent to a one-week high at $24,950 a tonne at one point on after Indonesia said it would impose a new royalty charge on all tin shipments and only allow the export of refined tin. [ID:nL3E7JC1RG]
It ended bid at $24,650 from $23,605 on Thursday. Metal Prices at 1802 GMT Metal Last Change Pct Move End 2010 Ytd Pct
move COMEX Cu 401.05 0.20 +0.05 444.70 -9.82 LME Alum 2399.00 -14.00 -0.58 2470.00 -2.87 LME Cu 8865.00 -16.00 -0.18 9600.00 -7.66 LME Lead 2380.00 -5.00 -0.21 2550.00 -6.67 LME Nickel 21400.00 -200.00 -0.93 24750.00 -13.54 LME Tin 24650.00 1045.00 +4.43 26900.00 -8.36 LME Zinc 2176.00 -10.00 -0.46 2454.00 -11.33 SHFE Alu 17440.00 -195.00 -1.11 16840.00 3.56 SHFE Cu* 66460.00 -250.00 -0.37 71850.00 -7.50 SHFE Zin 16845.00 65.00 +0.39 19475.00 -13.50 ** 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 Melanie Burton in London; editing by Jane Baird, Sofina Mirza-Reid and David Gregorio)