METALS-Copper down on Fed tapering worry, China strength helps
* Emerging markets hit by tapering concerns, Syrian escalation
* China's economy on track for 7.5 pct growth - stats bureau
By Maytaal Angel and Silvia Antonioli
LONDON, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Copper was fell slightly on Tuesday as signals of stabilisation in top consumer China were offset by worries over the potential tapering of the U.S. stimulus program, while a potential western strike on Syria made investor bets more cautious.
The economy of the world's top metals consumer is showing clear signs of stabilisation, helped by policy support and some improvement in global demand, and is on track to meet the official 2013 growth target of 7.5 percent, the government said.
In the wider markets however, emerging markets were hit hard as doubts over the Syrian situation added to pressure from investors' positioning for an end to the availability of cheap dollars, which has helped support many developing nations.
Western powers told the Syrian opposition to expect a strike against President Bashar al-Assad's forces within days, and his enemies vowed to punish a poison gas attack that Washington called a "moral obscenity".
"Copper is correlated with emerging market equities, (where) there are fears that as the Fed gets closer to tapering off quantitative easing, markets with the weakest fundamentals will see outflows of hot money," said Gianclaudio Torlizzi of metals consultancy T-Commodity.
He added, however: "Copper has found strong support thanks to China's stabilisation. The (emerging market) selloff has been excessive. I would take today's weakness as a buying opportunity."
Benchmark three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange fell 0.6 percent to close at $7,315. London markets were closed on Monday for a bank holiday.
Copper fell last week for the first week in four as a rebound faded following an emerging market selloff. Copper has risen about 11 percent from a three-year trough touched in late June but is still down around 7 percent this year.
In the United States, recent data on durable goods, single family home sales and business spending on capital goods have been disappointing, muddling the outlook for when the Federal Reserve may curb its quantitative easing programme.
Last week, however, investors also were treated to upbeat manufacturing numbers from the United States and more importantly China, which accounts for about 40 percent of global copper demand.
"Chinese demand has recovered, in part by restocking, (but) end-demand has also improved," Barclays Capital said in a note.
"Our economists still expect (Chinese) growth (to be) weaker by year-end. Although prices could run further to the upside in the short term, we favour selling into this strength to position for lower prices later in the year," it added.
In other metals aluminium fell 0.3 percent to close at $1,887 a tonne, zinc fell 0.2 percent to $1,983 a tonne, while lead bucked the trend to close up 0.6 percent to $2,224 a tonne.
Tin also gained some ground, closing 0.3 percent up at $21,825 while nickel lost 0.7 percent to close at $14,425.
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