Copper slips as Russia-Ukraine jitters spur caution

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Feb 17 (Reuters) - Copper prices fell on Thursday as investors took a cautious stance amid growing Russia-Ukraine tension, while the dollar firmed, making greenback-denominated metals more expensive.

Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine accused government forces of opening fire on their territory four times in the last 24 hours. It was not immediately clear how serious the incidents were. read more

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) fell 0.4% to $9,950 a tonne, as of 0740 GMT, while the most-traded March copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange ended daytime trading down 0.3% at 71,160 yuan ($11,234.43) a tonne.

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"Metals will remain volatile on headlines surrounding the situation in Ukraine," said Kshitij Purohit, product head at Mumbai-based CapitalVia Global Research, adding if copper could sustain above $9,950 on the LME it could try to breach $10,000.

"Once the news flow around the Ukraine issue stops we could see a good run up in metals since the demand is increasing."

The dollar index rose 0.1%, while Asian stocks retreated as tensions in eastern Ukraine sent investors scurrying for safety.

FUNDAMENTALS

* LME aluminium dropped 0.4% to $3,242.5 a tonne, nickel eased 0.1% to $23,390, lead eased 0.3% to $2,330, zinc fell 0.2% to $3,578 and tin was 0.2% lower at $43,620.

* ShFE aluminium rose 0.3% to 22,585 yuan a tonne, nickel was up 0.1% at 173,010 yuan, zinc fell 0.8% to 24,905 yuan, lead gained 1% to 15,490 yuan and tin was flat at 332,890 yuan.

* U.S. Federal Reserve officials last month agreed that it was time to raise interest rates, but also that any decisions would depend on a meeting-by-meeting analysis of inflation and other data, according to the minutes of the Jan. 25-26 policy meeting. read more

* Aurubis AG (NAFG.DE), Europe's largest copper producer, said on Wednesday it plans to build a 70 million euro ($79.5 million) recycling plant in Belgium to expand production of recycled nickel along with copper. read more

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($1 = 6.3331 Chinese yuan renminbi)

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Reporting by Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Shailesh Kuber

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