UPDATE 4-Codelco hikes some Europe copper premiums to $112 -sources

Mon Oct 7, 2013 4:36pm EDT

* Higher premiums reflect renewed bullish stances

* Chilean miner's premiums to China also seen rising

By Alexandra Ulmer and Silvia Antonioli

SANTIAGO/LONDON, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Leading copper producer Codelco has set some of its 2014 European copper premiums at $112 a tonne, a 31 percent increase over this year, buoyed by optimism over world economic health, sources close to the Chilean miner told Reuters on Monday.

Codelco's European clients paid $85 a tonne this year in premiums, which are added to the LME cash price to cover physical delivery costs such as transport and insurance.

The higher premium, set during the annual LME Week metals industry event, highlights an upbeat view about demand from top consumer China.

As the world's top copper producer, Codelco carries significant weight on the global metals market and its premiums are seen as an industry benchmark. The company declined to comment on premiums on Monday.

The figure floated by sources close to the Chilean state company is above the $105 per tonne put forth by Aurubis AG , Europe's biggest copper smelter.

This year spot premiums are well above 2013's, giving producers more leverage to seek higher prices again next year.

Still, some industry experts warn the world economy remains fragile, and that big premium increases might be too ambitious.

"I don't see any fundamental reason for the premium to be higher," said Anton Berlin, head of strategic marketing at Norilsk Nickel, the world's No. 1 nickel producer and 12th largest copper producer.

"Looking at the market fundamentals, I see no change next year from this year," he said in an interview with Reuters.

London copper stagnated on Monday on low volumes as investors paused to monitor LME Week, while China was absent from the market for the last day of a week-long break.

Benchmark copper edged down 0.2 percent on the London Metal Exchange (LME) to $7,245 a tonne at the close of ring trading, after gains of 1 percent in the previous session.

STEEPER CHINA PREMIUM HIKE EYED

The $112 figure suggests Codelco will clinch an even higher increase with its Chinese clients, one Chile-based trader said.

The trader estimated that premiums for the Asian giant - a stronger market than crisis-hit Europe - will reach over $130 and probably up to $140. This year's premiums stood at $98.

Japanese smelters shocked the market with a proposed 45 percent increase in charges to Chinese end users, Reuters reported in September.

But subsequent estimates that Codelco could seek premiums as high as $150 in China are exaggerated, a source close to the company told Reuters late last month.

Codelco and its Chinese clients are set to hash out a deal in coming weeks.