Copper ends lower despite strong US housing d

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    LONDON - Copper prices ended slightly down despite strong US housing data, weighed by expectations of slower Chinese imports and climbing LME inventories, dealers said.

    Aluminium rose to a four-week high, buoyed by signs of improving demand, while nickel, zinc and tin edged higher and lead finished slightly down.

    Barclays Capital analyst Gayle Berry said metals markets derived support from positive US housing data but were struggling to gain ground.

    New US housing starts and permits rose in August to their highest level since November, lifted by a rebound in multifamily homes, a government report showed on Thursday.

    "Some of the metals like copper are experiencing increases in LME inventories and I think the market is taking that as a signal that the expected recovery in OECD demand hasn't got underway yet," Berry said.

    "There is plenty of scepticism out there about whether an OECD demand recovery does transpire over the rest of the year and I think there are some concerns over the strength of Chinese import demand as well," she added. Copper for three months delivery on the London Metal Exchange ended at $US6,385 a tonne, down slightly from Wednesday's final $US6,415.

    "All the good news is in the prices," said Robin Bhar at Calyon. "We have the recession ending in the prices...but people are still worried about the uncertainties in the economy."

    Copper has more than doubled since the start of the year, driven by speculative buying, signs of improvement in the global economy and Chinese restocking, which recently ran out of steam.

    This week's upbeat US retail data and comments from US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke saying the US recession is probably over buoyed copper, but was not enough to lift it from the $US500 trading range in which it has been stuck since early August.

    "We've had a good run (with copper). For it to go any higher we have to see solid data showing recovery," he said.


    But inventory data does not look promising. LME copper inventories rose 1,150 tonnes on Thursday to 324,375 tonnes, up by over a quarter since July. Early expectations were for weekly Shanghai copper stocks to be flat to slightly lower when data is released on Friday.

    Aluminium rose $US40 to end at $US1,967. Earlier prices rallied to $US1,978, their highest since Aug. 20.

    Berry said aluminium was boosted by talk of improving demand in Brazil, China, the US and Europe, while noting there was "a lot of scepticism about whether it will continue."

    Traders also said aluminium premiums were up on the back of speculation Russian aluminium giant RUSAL has agreed to sell another 500,000 tonnes of the metal to Swiss trading house Glencore.

    Zinc rose to $US1,958.5 per tonne, versus $US1,937. Nickel climbed to $US17,575 from $US17,250, while battery making material lead was slightly down at $US2,276 versus $US2,294 a tonne.

    Tin edged up to $US14,800 a tonne from $US14,600.;src=rss

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