* GRAPHIC-2019 asset returns: tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl (Updates with closing prices)
By Eric Onstad
LONDON, May 2 (Reuters) - Zinc prices hit their lowest since mid-March on worries about global demand and as inventories climbed, but other metals were supported by hopes that a U.S.-China trade deal would be agreed.
Investors have been worried after data on Tuesday showed factory growth in top metals consumer China slowed unexpectedly in April, with a survey on Thursday showing that Euro zone factory activity contracted for a third month.
“I think it’s still premature to buy. The current picture is that the worst is over, but conditions remain weak in the global economy. We need to see some real improvement for metals prices to really find the bottom,” said Gianclaudio Torlizzi, partner at consultancy T-Commodity in Milan.
“But in zinc and copper, supplies are still pretty tight, so I think that will keep us from seeing severe losses.”
Benchmark zinc on the London Metal Exchange fell 1.5 percent in closing open-outcry trading to $2,731 a tonne after touching $2,717, its lowest since March 11.
Most industrial metals slumped on Wednesday as computer-driven funds sold after an options expiry, with aluminium and lead prices hitting their lowest in more than two years.
* ZINC STOCKS: LME zinc inventories MZNSTX-TOTAL rose to 88,750 tonnes, the highest since Feb. 15 and up 70 percent over the past three weeks, LME data showed on Thursday. However, prices are still low by historical levels and have slid by half since October.
* HINDUSTAN ZINC: India’s Hindustan Zinc, the world’s second-largest zinc miner, expects its output to grow in 2019/20 after a drop in the previous financial year.
* TRADE TALKS: Metals prices gained support from a report that the United States and China are nearing a trade deal that would roll back a portion of the $250 billion in U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.
* COPPER: LME copper dropped 1.1 percent to trade at $6,167 a tonne in closing rings, the lowest since Feb. 15. The close is below the 200-day moving average at $6,192, which could lead to further losses, Torlizzi said.
* ALUMINIUM STOCKS: LME aluminium inventories MALSTX-TOTAL surged by 92,350 tonnes to 1,227,650 and have climbed by a fifth over the past week to the highest level since Feb. 25.
The LME aluminium price, however, shrugged off the stocks increase, rising 0.1 percent to end at $1,816 a tonne after sliding on Wednesday to its weakest in more than two years.
* PRICES: Nickel was bid down 0.04 percent to $12,150 in closing rings, lead gained 1.2 percent to trade at $1,875 and tin slid 1.4 percent to $19,275.
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Additional reporting by Mai Nguyen in Singapore; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and David Goodman