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METALS-Copper stays firm ahead of China data, clues to demand prospects

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* Focus on credit and liquidity in China
* Zinc stocks at historical low (Updates with official prices) By Pratima Desai LONDON, April 15 (Reuters) - Copper prices steadied on Monday, reinforced by a lower dollar and healthy economic numbers from China ahead of a barrage of growth data later this week from the top consumer. Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange traded down 0.1 percent at $6,475 a tonne in official rings. The metal, used in power and construction, has mostly traded in a narrow range between $6,300 and $6,500 since the middle of February. "Chinese data from Friday is supporting copper and other industrial metals," Commerzbank analyst Daniel Briesemann said.

"The market is waiting for the next bunch of data from China."
IMPORTS: China imported 391,000 tonnes of unwrought copper last month, up 25.7 percent from the previous month and 26.5 percent higher than a year earlier. LOANS: Chinese banks extended 1.69 trillion yuan ($251.6 billion) in net new yuan loans in March, compared with expectations of 1.2 trillion yuan. DATA: China's first-quarter economic growth is expected to have cooled to the weakest pace in at least 27 years, a Reuters poll showed, but a flurry of measures to boost domestic demand may have put a floor under slowing activity in March. Industrial output is forecast to have increased 5.9 percent from a year earlier, quickening from 5.3 percent in the first two months, which was the weakest pace in 17 years. LIQUIDITY: John Browning, managing director at BANDS Financial, said in a note that total social financing, a broad measure of credit and liquidity in China, is important. "Liquidity in China's private sector averaged 0.96 trillion yuan from 2002 until 2019, reaching an all-time high of 4.64 trillion yuan in January this year," Browning said, adding that the first-quarter average at 2.73 trillion yuan is almost three times the long-term average. "It should be noted the effect of Chinese tax cuts is yet to come. There is no previous example of a monetary and fiscal policy injection of this scale, and as such is somewhat experimental, the (result) being no means guaranteed." DOLLAR: A lower U.S. currency makes dollar-denominated commodities cheaper for holders of other currencies, which could boost demand and prices. ZINC: The premium for the cash over the three-month contract spiked above $100 a tonne on Friday to its highest since early December on concern about supply on the LME market due to large warrant holdings and historically low stocks at 56,125 tonnes. Three-month zinc was down 1 percent at $2,899 a tonne. PRICES: Aluminium slipped 0.2 percent to $1,859, lead gained 1.3 percent to $1,949, tin added 0.2 percent to $20,650 and nickel ceded 0.2 percent to $12,950 a tonne. <^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Top Base and Precious Metals Analysis - GFMS ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^> (Reporting by Pratima Desai; additional reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Dale Hudson and Louise Heavens)

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