* Relative calm returns to emerging markets
* China markets to reopen after week-long break on Friday
* Euro strengthens after comments by ECB chief Draghi
(Updates with closing prices)
By Susan Thomas and Melanie Burton
LONDON/SYDNEY, Feb 6 Copper firmed on Thursday
on a stronger euro, expectations of a pickup in prices when top
consumer China returns from holiday on Friday and relative calm
in volatile emerging markets.
Copper hit fresh session highs, edging away from two-month
lows hit earlier this week, and aluminium moved into positive
territory after the euro strengthened against the dollar.
A stronger euro makes commodities priced in dollars
less expensive for buyers in Europe.
The euro got a boost following comments by the chief of the
European Central Bank that gave no hint of imminent monetary
policy easing and after the ECB left rates unchanged.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange
closed at $7,130 a tonne after touching a session high of
$7,120. Prices hit a two-month low on Tuesday at $7,016 and are
down around 4 percent on the year.
Copper prices had fallen for nine sessions from Jan. 21 on
evidence that China's factories had a slow start to the year,
and after fitful U.S. growth data.
But a brightening U.S. service sector and generally
improving manufacturing health elsewhere in Asia, and in Europe
have soothed investors' concerns.
Data on Thursday showed the number of Americans filing new
claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last
week, in a boost to the labour market outlook and the broader
The capital-hungry emerging markets of Turkey, South Africa
and India have also regained some composure, after a rout that
drew investors away from so-called risk assets like base metals
and into safe-haven investments.
"I think maybe today's slight strength is anticipation of
China markets opening overnight, and the default assumption is
the because China is a net buyer of copper there may be some
bargain hunting, since prices are fair bit down from when
(China) closed last week," BNP Paribas analyst Stephen Briggs
said. "The emerging markets have also stabilised somewhat."
China's stock, bond, foreign exchange and commodity futures
markets reopen on Friday after the week-long Lunar New Year
After the holiday, manufacturing activity in China begins to
rise for what is normally the most robust quarter of the year.
"If manufacturing picks up seasonally, the fundamental
factors are aligned for at least a modest pick up in prices,"
Singapore-based analyst Sijin Cheng of Barclays said.
China's factories are lightly stocked given copper imports
were uneconomic in January when LME prices shot to seven month
Wiktor Bielski, head of commodities research at VTB Capital,
said Chinese buying after the new year holiday was likely to be
"The copper market is a little better supplied in the very
short term. My guess is they will try to do what they've done in
the past two years and not come out buying aggressively as soon
as the new year holidays are finished."
LME nickel climbed more than 1 percent, closing at
£13,970 a tonne from $13,775 at the close on Wednesday.
Indonesia's government has banned exports of unprocessed
minerals, including nickel.
"I think the market assumption is that there is going to be
some easing of the restrictions," Briggs said. "There are no
signs of that at the moment. As things stand the government in
Indonesia is talking tough."
Aluminium closed at $1,713 a tonne from $1,701, zinc
at $1,998 from $1,968, lead at $2,118 from
$2,097 and tin at $22,110 from $22,075.
Three month LME copper
Most active ShFE copper
Three month LME aluminium
Most active ShFE aluminium
Three month LME zinc
Most active ShFE zinc
Three month LME lead
Most active ShFE lead
Three month LME nickel
Three month LME tin
(Additional reporting by Eric Onstad; Editing by William Hardy
and David Evans)