* China exports, imports surge, surpass market expectations
* China copper imports rise 3 pct in January vs December
* Trade data suggest US economy in better shape than expected
By Susan Thomas and Silvia Antonioli
LONDON, Feb 8 Copper rose on Friday for the first time in four
days on a softer dollar and strong trade data from China and the United States,
which signalled improved economic growth and brighter prospects for metals
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange closed at $8,295 a
tonne, up 1.16 percent on the day.
China's exports jumped 25 percent in January from a year earlier, topping
market forecasts for an increase of 17 percent, while imports surged 28.8
percent, also ahead of the analysts' estimate of 23.3 percent.
The sharp rise was partly due to the Lunar New Year effect, with the holiday
falling in January of last year, but the "numbers are still very strong and show
the economic recovery is on track", said Zhang Zhiwei, chief China economist at
Nomura in Hong Kong.
Trade data from the Unites States was also supportive for assets such as
metals that are perceived as riskier.
The U.S. trade deficit shrank in December to its narrowest in nearly three
years, suggesting the economy did much better in the fourth quarter than
"The U.S. trade deficit number should be supportive for metals as it shows
that things are going well in the U.S., and you have got the dollar marginally
weaker today - that has also been supportive," said Randy North, director at RBC
The dollar was down slightly against a basket of currencies. A softer
dollar makes metals less expensive for investors using alternative currencies.
The upbeat data boosted other risk assets including equities and oil.
CHINESE COPPER IMPORTS
China, which accounts for around 40 percent of refined copper demand,
imported 350,958 tonnes of copper in January, up almost 3 percent from December
as importers brought forward shipments to avoid delays during next week's
"China imports of copper in January were up slightly on the December figure
but down over 15 percent on a year ago," Commerzbank said in a research note.
"One reason for trading volumes remaining modest is no doubt the imminent
Lunar New Year celebrations in China. Chinese traders have evidently been
scaling down their activities in the run-up to this holiday. We expect imports
to start rising again in March, parallel to higher seasonal demand, which should
support copper prices in the medium term."
In other metals, three-month tin closed at $24,850, up from $24,675
at Thursday's close, while zinc finished at $2,205 from $2,163.
Three-month lead closed at $2,422 from $2,408, and aluminium
, untraded at the close, was last bid at $2,119 from a last bid of $2,098
Boosting sentiment in the aluminium market, Russia's United Company RUSAL
Plc, the world's top aluminium producer, said it expected 2013 global
aluminium demand to rise 6 percent, fuelled by investment in large-scale
infrastructure projects in China.
Stainless steel material nickel closed at $18,315 from $18,180.