* Tin hits near-4-month peak; lead at highest since June
* China copper imports up 8.1 pct at 410,680 tonnes
* Dollar slumps to seven-week low
* U.S. weekly jobless claims edge up, but still at low
By Harpreet Bhal and Eric Onstad
LONDON, Aug 8 Copper hit its highest in almost
two months on Thursday as upbeat trade data and
better-than-expected imports of the metal in top consumer China
reinforced hopes of a revival in demand for industrial
A broad-based move, also bolstered by a weak dollar, saw
many short position holders buying back positions, sweeping
other industrial metals higher. Lead also touched the highest
levels in nearly two months while tin surged to a
Surprisingly firm rebound in China's exports and imports in
July offered some hope that the world's second-largest economy
might be stabilising after more than two years of slowing
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange
surged 2.6 percent to close at $7,185 a tonne after touching a
session peak of $7,215, its strongest since June 11.
"The data supports our positive view that the period of
destocking in China is over and we forecast an improvement in
metals demand and also a stabilisation of growth in China over
the coming months," said Eugen Weinberg, analyst at Commerzbank.
"Sentiment was also very downbeat in the market and the data
has triggered some short-covering."
China is the world's largest copper consumer, accounting for
around 40 percent of global refined demand.
Data showed China's imports of copper rose 8.1 percent to
410,680 tonnes in July from 379,951 tonnes in the previous
Some analysts said although the figures from China were
positive, a seasonally slower month for demand could prevent
sustained gains for the metal in the short term.
"Markets are near record shorts in copper so after positive
news in China's trade data, we could see copper prices finally
break out from the recent trading range, but I don't think it
will be sustained," Natalie Rampono at ANZ in Melbourne said.
"We're in the seasonally slower months for demand, so we're
still expecting a bit of near-term weakness," she said, adding
markets may well be preempting the expected seasonal
fourth-quarter recovery in demand.
Markets appeared to welcome U.S. data, which showed that
although the number of Americans filing new claims for jobless
benefits rose slightly last week, it was still near its lowest
level since before the 2007-09 recession.
Also supporting gains in metals was the dollar, which
slumped to a seven-week low against a basket of currencies as
recent inconclusive economic data and comments from Federal
Reserve policymakers raised doubts over when the U.S. central
bank will begin reducing stimulus.
A weak dollar makes commodities priced in the U.S. unit
cheaper for holders of other currencies.
In industry news, mining group Rio Tinto has
scrapped efforts to sell its loss-making Pacific Aluminium
business, blaming poor market conditions as weaker iron ore,
copper and coal prices dragged first-half profit down 18
Rio also said that it will shut down its aluminium smelter
in Shawinigan, Quebec, by the end of November.
"Indeed, the sustained period of weak aluminium prices and
chronic oversupply, particularly in China, has forced producers
to cut output with Chinese production curtailments accelerating
in June-July," analyst Wiktor Bielski at VTB Capital said.
"However, most of the cuts in China are designated as
temporary cuts, indicating they could resume operations when
prices improve," he added in a note.
Aluminium, zinc and nickel hit the highest levels in two
weeks, with aluminium closing 2.4 percent higher at
$1,840 a tonne, zinc adding 2.5 percent to $1,895 and
nickel climbing 2.5 percent to end at $14,330.
Tin, which has been the strongest performer so far
this year among major LME metals, finished 2.1 percent higher at
$21,700 a tonne, the highest since April 15.
Lead added 1.6 percent to $2,139 a tonne after
hitting a session peak of $2,147, the highest since June 11.