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METALS-Shanghai copper hits 6-month low as shorts increase

 (Updates position data, prices)
    BEIJING, March 21 (Reuters) - Shanghai copper prices fell
for a fourth day on Wednesday, marking their lowest close in
almost six months amid fears of a trade war as investors waited
for news on a U.S. interest rate hike. 
    Short positions held by brokerages on the most traded May
copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) rose by
almost 3,000 lots to 104,540 lots on Wednesday and now exceed
long positions by more than 18,000 lots, ShFE data show.
    Markets are waiting to take their cue from the Federal
Reserve's decision on interest rates later in the day, Malcolm
Freeman, CEO of Kingdom Futures, wrote in a note. 
    Higher U.S. rates may support a rising dollar, which would
limit demand for dollar-denominated commodities such as copper
from buyers paying with other currencies.
    "Aside from this there is also the growing paranoia around
the possibility of a global trade war which appears in balance
to be frightening the more speculative investors away from the
sector," Freeman added. 
    * SHFE COPPER: The May contract ended down 1.5
percent at 50,580 yuan ($7,989.13) a tonne, its lowest close
since Sept. 22. Earlier in the session, it touched a low of
50,470 yuan and is down 4.5 percent so far this month.
    * LME COPPER: Three-month copper on the London Metal
Exchange gave up early gains to trade down for a fifth
session, falling 0.5 percent to $6,728 a tonne, as of 0725 GMT.
It earlier touched a fresh three-month low of $6,720.
    * INVENTORIES: LME copper stocks MCUSTX-TOTAL grew by a
further 3,200 tonnes on Tuesday to 322,475 tonnes, bringing this
month's rise to 61 percent. 
    * COPPER: Workers at Antofagasta PLC's Los
Pelambres copper mine in Chile have opted to extend a period of
government mediation in an effort to reach agreement on a new
labor contract, an industry group said on Tuesday.
    * ALUMINIUM: Global primary aluminium output excluding China
dipped to 2.009 million tonnes in February from a revised 2.221
million tonnes in January, International Aluminium Institute
(IAI) data showed on Tuesday.
    * TARIFFS: The United Arab Emirates is asking Washington to
exempt it from new U.S. tariffs on aluminium and steel and
believes it has a strong case, a senior government official said
on Tuesday.
    For the top stories in metals and other news, click       
    * A hush settled over financial markets on Wednesday as
investors counted down to a likely hike in U.S. interest rates
and guidance on how many more to expect this year, while trade
war fears kept export nations' currencies on edge.  
 BASE METALS PRICES                         0725 GMT
 Three month LME copper                         6728
 Most active ShFE copper                       50580
 Three month LME aluminium                    2076.5
 Most active ShFE aluminium                    13925
 Three month LME zinc                         3195.5
 Most active ShFE zinc                         24400
 Three month LME lead                         2361.5
 Most active ShFE lead                         18340
 Three month LME nickel                        13385
 Most active ShFE nickel                      101480
 Three month LME tin                           20715
 Most active ShFE tin                         143300
 BASE METALS ARBITRAGE                              
 LME/SHFE COPPER               LMESHFCUc3     1006.9
 LME/SHFE ALUMINIUM            LMESHFALc3   -1360.34
 LME/SHFE ZINC                 LMESHFZNc3     431.94
 LME/SHFE LEAD                 LMESHFPBc3     152.52
 LME/SHFE NICKEL               LMESHFNIc3    1180.43
($1 = 6.3311 Chinese yuan)

 (Reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Richard Pullin and Sherry