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METALS-Soaring aluminium hits $3,000 for first time since 2008

(Updates prices)

LONDON, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Aluminium prices touched $3,000 a tonne for the first time since 2008 on Monday as restrictions on output in China, the biggest producer, fuelled fears that supply will run short.

Prices of the lightweight metal used in packaging and construction have leaped 50% this year and nearly 15% in only three weeks as speculators pile into the market.

The benchmark contract on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was down 1% at $2,894.50 a tonne at 1600 GMT after touching $3,000.

“The market is obviously a bit over-extended here,” said Gianclaudio Torlizzi at consultants T-Commodity.

But he said prices would likely rise after a correction thanks to the Chinese output cuts, a rapid increase in the price of alumina, from which aluminium is made, dwindling exchange stockpiles and strong demand.

“It’s very, very hard to be bearish,” he said.

CHINA: Yunnan province, home to about 10% of China’s aluminium capacity, has told smelters using hydropower to keep average monthly output for September-December at August volumes or lower, a government document shows.

Yunnan aluminium smelters had already shut down nearly 1 million tonnes of annual capacity by August, researcher Antaike said this month.

ALUMINA: Futures of the aluminium ingredient on the Comex exchange have surged 20% this month to $365 a tonne.

INVENTORIES: Aluminium inventories in LME-registered warehouses have fallen 33% since March to 1.3 million tonnes and stocks in Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) stores have slumped 42% to 228,529 tonnes since April. AL-STX-SGHMALSTX-TOTAL

POSITIONING: Speculators are betting on higher prices, raising their net long in LME aluminium to 35% of open contracts by Thursday, from 19% a week earlier, brokers Marex Spectron said.

MARKETS: World stock markets edged lower on inflation worries and tax and regulatory pressures on the world’s biggest companies.

OTHER METALS: LME copper was down 1.4% at $9,561 a tonne, zinc fell 1.4% to $3,074, nickel slid 3.3% to $19,725, lead was 1.3% down at $2,287.50 and tin fell 0.3% to $33,500.

Reporting by Peter Hobson; Additional reporting by Mai Nguyen and Tom Daly; Editing by David Goodman, Bernadette Baum and Dan Grebler