* Fed chairman Bernanke stresses need to keep policy easy
* Copper markets currently well supplied
* Coming up: U.S. Federal budget at 1800 GMT
By Harpreet Bhal and Silvia Antonioli
LONDON, July 11 (Reuters) - Copper prices hit their highest in nearly a month on Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve chairman signalled a commitment to monetary stimulus for the foreseeable future, helping boost appetite for risky assets.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange rose more than three percent to its highest since June 18 at $7,049.25 a tonne in intraday trade. It then closed at $7,000, from a last bid of $6,825 on Wednesday.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said that the U.S. central bank reiterated the need for monetary policy accommodation for the foreseeable future, given tame inflation and a fragile labour market.
The comments put pressure on the U.S. dollar, which fell against a basket of currencies, making commodities priced in the greenback cheaper for holders of other currencies.
“Macro sentiment is a bit better today because of the comments from Bernanke on quantitative easing which pushed all markets up,” said analyst Andrey Kryuchenkov of VTB Capital
“But I don’t think this is sustainable for copper. I think it will stay in this range because there is no overwhelming demand from China and the market seems well supplied.”
China is the world’s biggest copper consumer, accounting for as much as 40 percent of global refined demand.
Copper was little changed after data showed the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose last week, a potentially worrisome sign for the economy although the level still pointed to ongoing healing in the labour market.
Hopes for looser policy from Beijing also drove gains in the market, after dismal trade figures for June sparked fresh concerns about the extent of the slowdown in China and raised market speculation that the government could cut banks’ reserve rate requirement ratio.
“Our China economists suggest China is unlikely to achieve its trade growth target of 8 percent, which could place downside risk to the GDP (gross domestic product) growth this year and pressure the labour market,” ANZ analysts said in a note.
In industry news, China’s top planning body is preparing to let foreign exchanges open commodities warehouses in free-trade zones, sources with government links said, which would grant the LME coveted access to the industrial giant.
In other metals, aluminium closed at $1,835 from a $1,820 at the close on Wednesday, tin finished at $19,450 from $19,550 and lead at $2,080 from $2,072.
Nickel closed at $13,635 from a last bid of $13,650 and zinc at $1,900 from $1,898.