Copper lifts to seven-week high

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    Copper prices have hit a seven-week high with fund buying fuelling the uptrend, but gains were capped ahead of a Federal Reserve meeting next week and on fears of a hard landing in top consumer China.

    Benchmark copper closed up at $US5,398 a tonne from $US5,365 at the close on Wednesday. The metal used in power and construction earlier hit $US5,435.

    The red metal has risen about 10 per cent since hitting a six-year low of $US4,855 on August 24, mostly on the back of short-covering by funds known as commodity trading advisers, which trade using buy or sell signals from mathematical models.

    "We think some of the funds have flipped round to long positions," said David Wilson, analyst at Citi.

    "People are waiting for the outcome of the Fed meeting on September 17."

    The US Federal Reserve is expected to keep interest rates steady after its meeting next week, but many see a rate increase before the year ends.

    Higher US rates would reinforce US dollar strength, which means commodities priced in the US currency are likely to remain under pressure.

    Also on the agenda is a deluge of August economic data from China including industrial production and investment, both vital indicators, that could reinforce negative sentiment in industrial metals markets.

    However, the copper market welcomed news that China would boost infrastructure spending and speed up reform of its tax system to support the economy.

    "This could help to restore copper demand growth and continue to support the recovery in copper prices," mining analysts SP Angel said in a note.

    Three-month aluminium gained to $US1,637 from $US1,630, zinc to $US1,814 from $US1,818 at Wednesday's close and tin to $US15,375 from $US14,950.

    Lead rose to a one-week high of $US1,739. The battery material ended up at $US1,730 from $US1,718.

    Traders said the emergence of a large position holding between 40 and 50 per cent of warrants and cash contracts could mean a tighter market ahead.

    That perception is reinforced by falling stocks of lead in LME-approved warehouses, which at 168,750 tonnes have tumbled more than 30 per cent since late July.

    Nickel jumped 3.7 per cent to hit a three-week high of $US10,475 on short-covering. The stainless steel ingredient closed at $US10,450 from $US10,100.

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