METALS-Copper buoyed by vaccine and U.S. stimulus hopes

(Updates throughout, changes dateline from HANOI)

LONDON, Feb 5 (Reuters) – Copper prices edged higher on Friday on hopes that an improving vaccine rollout and U.S. stimulus could boost demand for metals, though a stronger dollar kept gains in check.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) rose 1.3% to $7,924 a tonne by 1159 GMT. The metal, used in the power and construction industries, is on course for a weekly gain of about 1%.

“Market sentiment has remained bullish but cautious this week,” said ING analyst Wenyu Yao. “In the short term there is not much of a directional signal for the metals markets as we head into the Chinese New Year and businesses wind down.”

Global shares neared record highs as U.S. President Joe Biden’s drive to enact the $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid bill gained momentum after the U.S. Senate passed the budget plan.

INVENTORIES: Global stocks of copper are at their lowest since 2008 despite the approaching Chinese New Year, when inventories usually build because of lower demand, broker Marex Spectron said in a note.

Total inventories of copper in LME-registered warehouses are at 76,550 tonnes, less than half of October’s levels. MCUSTX-TOTAL

SPREADS: The premium for LME cash copper over the three-month contract CMCU0-3 eased to $2.50 a tonne from $10 on Tuesday. A premium points to nearby supply tightness on the LME market.

DOLLAR: The dollar was heading for its biggest weekly gain in three months, making greenback-priced metals more expensive for holders of other currencies.

CHINA STOCKS: Metal held in warehouses monitored by the Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) has increased ahead of the Chinese New Year.

Zinc stocks ZN-STX-SGH jumped 34.9% week on week to 60,361 tonnes while ShFE tin inventories SSN-TOTAL-W rose 18.4% and ShFE aluminium stockpiles AL-STX-SGH increased by 10.2%.

OTHER PRICES: LME aluminium gained 0.9% to $2,012 a tonne, zinc added 1.1% to $2,656.50, lead firmed by 0.2% to $2,047, tin added 1.1% to $23,045 and nickel was up 1.6% at $17,925.

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