* Copper on track for first weekly gain in three weeks
* Upbeat factory data boosts optimism
* Pace of U.S. jobs growth slows, unemployment rate falls
By Harpreet Bhal
LONDON, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Copper reached its highest price in more than a week on Friday as the dollar fell and after data showed slightly stronger than expected factory activity in big metals consumer China.
The gains were capped by caution on the U.S. growth outlook after mixed jobs figures.
Three-months copper on the London Metal Exchange closed at $7,005 per tonne, after hitting its highest since July 24 at $7,079 a tonne. On Thursday it was last bid at $6,998.
The number of jobs outside the U.S. farming sector increased by 162,000 last month, below the median forecast in a Reuters poll for 184,000 new jobs. But the unemployment rate fell to 7.4 percent, its lowest in more than four years.
The figures led to a broad fall in the dollar against the euro and the yen. A weaker dollar makes commodities priced in the U.S. unit cheaper for holders of other currencies.
Copper, used in power and construction, had risen 2.4 percent for the week by the close, its first gain in three weeks. It registered a monthly gain of 1.9 percent in July.
Factory activity in top metals consumer China was slightly stronger than expected in July, U.S. manufacturing grew at its fastest in two years and European factories snapped a run of declining output, offering some support for metals demand.
“The data shows that the U.S. economy is coming out of the soft patch,” Robin Bhar, an analyst at Societe Generale, said.
“What is supporting commodities is quantitative easing, and any easing back could have a temporary bearish impact. But people have to remember that if the Fed scales back on stimulus it is because the economy is getting stronger. That is good news.”
Markets have been supported this week by a statement by the Federal Reserve that the U.S. economy continues to recover but is still in need of support, offering no sign that the bank is planning to curb its bond-buying stimulus at its next meeting in September.
The European Central Bank (ECB) affirmed interest rates could fall further from record lows.
Nickel miners have been clinging to plans to maintain production, despite a growing supply glut and prices around four-year lows, raising the risk of more writedowns and losses being unveiled in the current financial reporting season.
Nickel, untraded at the close, was bid at $13,995 from a close of $13,895 on Thursday. Tin closed at $21,125 from $20,920, and aluminium at $1,809 from $1,812.
Zinc closed at $1,866 per tonne from $1,855 at the close on Thursday, and lead at $2,121 from $2,106.