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By Mai Nguyen
SINGAPORE, April 30 (Reuters) - Copper prices were on track for their best monthly gain in 28 months on Thursday, as an expansion in manufacturing activity in top consumer China added to existing signs of improving demand.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) rose 0.6% to $5,292.50 a tonne by 0710 GMT and was up 6.9% on a monthly basis, on course for its best month since December 2017.
The most-traded June copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) closed up 0.9% to 42,940 yuan ($6,093.63) a tonne and was also set for a monthly gain.
Factory activity in China expanded as more businesses resumed work, although gains were tepid as a worsening slump in export orders pointed to a long road to recovery.
“Demand seems good at least for factories, but consumption is better compared to last month and not last year. China demand can last but there are still some concerns on exports,” said a China-based metals analyst, who requested anonymity due to company policy.
Investor sentiment was also supported by hopes that Gilead Sciences Inc’s experimental antiviral drug remdesivir might be an effective treatment for the novel coronavirus.
* COPPER PREMIUMS: Copper premiums in bonded warehouses of Yangshan SMM-CUYP-CN rose to $90 a tonne on Wednesday, their highest since November 2018, SMM data showed, as demand picked up and on favourable LME/ShFE arbitrage trade.
* BONDED STOCKS: Copper inventories in bonded warehouses of Shanghai SMM-CUR-BON fell to 305,800 tonnes as of April 24, the lowest since Feb. 7, latest SMM data provided on Refinitiv Eikon showed, while ShFE copper stocks CU-STX-SGH declined for six straight weeks.
* ALUMINA: An alumina plant in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv, part of Russian aluminium group Rusal, said it may have to temporarily suspend production after Ukrainian customs authorities blocked access to supplies of bauxite.
* OTHER PRICES: LME aluminium eased 0.1% to $1,504 a tonne, zinc rose 0.4% to $1,955 a tonne. ShFE nickel fell 0.8% to 99,950 yuan a tonne, while ShFE aluminium advanced 0.6% to 12,660 yuan a tonne.
* CHILE COPPER: Chile’s copper output slipped just 1% due to the coronavirus pandemic, its mining minister said.
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Reporting by Mai Nguyen; editing by Uttaresh.V and Subhranshu Sahu