METALS-Copper supported by policy-easing hopes, physical demand

Mon Apr 29, 2013 12:38pm EDT

* Money managers trim net short positions for third week-CFTC

* ShFE markets closed until Thursday

* Dollar dips; European shares rise after Italy names government

By Maytaal Angel and Harpreet Bhal

LONDON, April 29 (Reuters) - Copper rose on Monday, extending a recovery from 1-1/2 year lows hit last week supported by hopes for more U.S. and European central bank monetary easing and on signs of life in the physical markets.

Also helping copper, European shares rose after a coalition government was named in Italy, ending a two-month-old political impasse. The dollar fell versus the euro meanwhile, making dollar-priced metals cheaper for non-U.S. investors.

Benchmark three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange ended at $7,153.50 a tonne, up from Friday's close of $7,030.

China's markets will be closed until Thursday for Labour Day holidays.

Copper recorded a gain of 0.5 percent last week, its biggest since early February, as investors piled in after prices hit a year-and-a-half low of $6,762.25 a tonne. Prices are down some 11 percent this year.

"The market is a little bit too pessimistic on base metals. OK, inflation is decelerating, leading economic indicators are edging lower again, but in copper something is starting to improve," said Credit Suisse analyst Tobias Merath.

"Inventories in China (are) starting to come off, LME cancelled warrants have spiked, spot premiums are rising, especially in China, and the arbitrage (import) window is open," he said.

Daily data showed LME stocks fell by 1,950 tonnes to 617,650 tonnes, though they remain near their highest in nearly a decade. In Shanghai, however, data last week showed SHFE copper stocks fell by 2.9 percent week on week to 217,180 tonnes, their lowest since early March.

Speculation is rife that the European Central Bank (ECB) will cut interest rates at its policy meeting on Thursday given the dreary run of economic news from the region.

The U.S. Federal Reserve also meets this week and is widely expected to keep its current pace of bond buying at $85 billion a month. The policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee will announce its decision at 1815 GMT on Wednesday.

The rate cut and bond buying hopes come amid a string of poor economic data. China's economic recovery unexpectedly stumbled in the first three months of 2013, while U.S. growth expanded at a weaker than expected 2.5 percent.

"This is the third consecutive day that we are seeing triple-digit moves in copper, but despite today's advance, the downtrend remains intact and will not be taken out unless we get above $7,450 (a tonne)," said Ed Meir, analyst at INTL FCStone.

LESS BEARISH

Signalling some investors at least have become less bearish on the metal's prospects by contrast, hedge funds and money managers decreased their net shorts in copper futures and options for a third week, the CFTC's Commitments of Traders report showed,

India's largest copper smelter will remain shut as a local environmental court transferred a case over complaints about emissions to New Delhi, extending a month-long closure.

The smelter, run by Sterlite Industries was closed on March 30, sending shockwaves through the copper market by pushing about 3,000 tonnes per day of concentrates onto the market and sending fees to process to a five-month high in Asia.

Soldering metal tin ended at $20,895 from $20,775, while zinc, used in galvanising, closed at $1,907 from $1,897.

Battery material lead ended at $2,044 from a close of $2,037 on Friday, aluminium closed at $1,899 from $1,878, while nickel ended at $15,500 a tonne from $15,200.

Gains in nickel, the worst performing LME metal this year, were capped by news that Indonesia expects the first stage of a $1-billion nickel pig iron smelter in Central Sulawesi to start operations by the end of 2014.

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