REFILE-METALS-Zinc hits highest in nearly 10 months, copper steadies
* China's zinc imports up 91.05 pct in November
* China's copper imports up 31.22 pct in November
* Indonesia's Timah lifts force majeure on tin shipments
By Maytaal Angel and Harpreet Bhal
LONDON, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Zinc prices rose to their highest level in nearly 10 months on Monday, the biggest gainer in the base metals complex, lifted by tightening supplies and robust imports from China.
Data from China showed the country's imports of the metal used to galvanize steel jumped 91.05 percent to 73,744 tonnes in November.
At the same time, zinc stocks in LME-monitored warehouses dropped 4,200 tonnes, latest exchange data showed, bringing the total down to 890,625 tonnes, a fall of 175,225 tonnes or 16 percent over the past two months or so.
Three-month zinc on the London Metal Exchange rose to a session high of $2,071, its highest level since March 1. At 1527 GMT, it traded at $2,064, up from a last bid of $2,039.
"Zinc looks most interesting in our view as supplies tighten, while demand, and especially from the steel sector in China, continues to improve," Andrey Kryuchenkov, analyst at VTB said in a note.
"Zinc could well finally break out of the... $1,800 to $2,000 range and return into the early 2011 range between $2,400 to $2,600 on the 3-month benchmark contract."
Cash prices for zinc traded at a $2.50 discount to three-month futures prices, against a $11.75 discount last week.
Copper prices were also buoyed by tightening supplies. Latest daily LME data showed copper stocks fell 3,450 tonnes to 379,100 tonnes, their lowest level since late January.
Three-month copper on the LME was at $7,250.75 a tonne, up from $7,238 on Friday. LME cash copper traded at a $10.50 premium to the three-month benchmark .
Analysts said the metal used in power and construction was benefiting from investors taking the view that the U.S. economy can withstand the Federal Reserve's modest tapering of monetary stimulus.
"Growth is strong enough for the Fed to taper and that is a positive sign for copper," said Credit Suisse analyst Tobias Merath.
He added: "We have seen inventory declines at the LME, and we have seen local premiums are still quite strong - an indication that end user demand is actually not so bad."
Data out earlier showed China's imports of refined copper in November jumped 31.22 percent to 328,907 tonnes.
China accounts for about 40 percent of the world's copper demand and analysts say recent imports of the metal may have been used for financing rather than being consumed by end-users.
On the downside, however, China's cash market squeeze showed little sign of easing on Monday, reinforcing the view the central bank has shifted to tighter monetary policy in a bid to curb risky lending.
The key seven-day bond repurchase rate initially opened lower but then spiked to 8.9 percent earlier.
In other metals, benchmark tin was at $22,900 a tonne, from $22,950.
In Indonesia, top tin exporter PT Timah has lifted a force majeure on shipments declared on Aug. 30 as conditions improved after the government introduced a rule forcing domestic producers to trade on a local exchange.
Aluminium was at $1,764 a tonne from a close of $1,785, while lead traded at $2,231.75 a tonne from $2,216, having earlier hit its highest since late August at $2,235 a tonne.
Nickel was at $14,390 from a close of $14,420.
Three month LME copper CMCU3
Most active ShFE copper SCFcv1
Three month LME aluminium CMAL3
Most active ShFE aluminium SAFcv1
Three month LME zinc CMZN3
Most active ShFE zinc SZNcv1
Three month LME lead CMPB3
Most active ShFE lead SPBcv1
Three month LME nickel CMNI3
Three month LME tin CMSN3