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METALS-Copper drifts higher on soft dollar, China support, mine supply fears

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(Updates prices, adds China support for property sector) By Eric Onstad LONDON, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Copper prices edged up on Friday, boosted by a weak dollar, fresh support by China for its troubled property sector and worries about a potential tightening of supply from mines. Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was up 0.7% at $8,274 a metric ton at 1700 GMT after retreating from a six-week high in the previous session. U.S. Comex copper futures gained 0.6% to $3.72 a lb. "We're waiting to see what happens in Panama. There's no doubt that on the mining side of things, it's pretty tight," Dan Smith, head of research at Amalgamated Metal Trading, said. First Quantum Minerals this week reduced ore processing at Cobre Panama, one of the world's biggest copper mines, as protests against the project blocked port access. "The fundamental story for copper is very important - the green energy transition being very strong - and that's why nobody's that bearish on copper at the moment," Smith added. In the short term, technical signals were suggesting a correction, but prices should resume the uptrend into year-end, he added. LME copper has bounced from an 11-month low of $7,856 on Oct. 23.

The dollar was on track for one of its steepest weekly falls against major currencies this year as concerns grow about the worsening global economic outlook. A weaker U.S. currency makes dollar-priced commodities less expensive for holders of other currencies.

Metals prices have been pressured in recent months by worries about demand in China, which accounts for nearly half of global copper consumption. Those concerns were reinforced this week by a fourth consecutive monthly fall in prices of new homes.

On Friday, however, China's central bank and financial regulators pledged to ensure financing support for the property sector and to work together to resolve local government debt risks.

Nickel fell 0.8% to $16,890 a ton after touching the weakest since May 2021 at $16,820 on persistent worries about oversupply from Indonesia. "Even after the selling, we remain nickel price bears," Tom Price, head of commodities strategy at Liberum, said in a note this week, which forecasts prices to average $15,675 next year.

In other metals, aluminium eased 0.4% to $2,207.50 a ton, zinc dropped 1% to $2,551, tin lost 1.5% to $24,820 while lead rose 0.3% to $2,290 after touching the strongest since Sept. 1 at $2,297.50. For the top stories in metals click ($1 = 7.2467 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Eric Onstad Additional reporting by Neha Arora in New Delhi Editing by David Goodman, Louise Heavens and Andrew Heavens)

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