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METALS-Copper drops on supply expectations and inventories

(Adds copper technicals and official prices)

LONDON, March 20 Copper prices slipped on Monday as worries about demand from top consumer China were reinforced by expectations of ample supplies and higher inventories in exchange-monitored warehouses.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange traded down 0.4 percent at $5,912 a tonne in official rings, having last week touched $5,948.50, its highest since March 6.

"There is nothing to suggest the market is tight," said Julius Baer analyst Carsten Menke.

"We need to see signs of tightness driven by the supply disruptions, or if the market is amply supplied, as it seems to be at the moment, I'd say prices need to come down."

* STOCKS: Inventories of copper in warehouses monitored by the Shanghai Futures Exchange have more than doubled to 325,278 tonnes since early January. Stocks in LME-approved warehouses, at 332,975 tonnes, are up nearly 70 percent since early February.

* SCRAP: Analysts say that higher copper prices, up nearly 30 percent since October, have brought more scrap to market, hindering further rises.

* DISRUPTIONS: Supply disruptions in Chile, Indonesia and Peru have boosted copper this year, though there were signs last week of a breakthrough in the strike at the BHP Billiton-owned Escondida mine in Chile with a revised offer to unions.

* TECHNICALS: Copper is holding above the 21-day moving average around $5,895, support at $5,860 near the 55-day moving average.

* PROTECTIONISM: Worries about demand after G20 finance ministers dropped a pledge to keep global trade free and open weighed on prices of industrial metals overall.

* PRICES: Aluminium was down $1 at $1,913 a tonne, zinc gained $1 to $2,883, lead rose 0.2 percent to $2,295, tin added 0.6 percent to $20,400 and nickel lost 1.3 percent to $10,130.

* ZINC: Earlier touched $2,900.50, its highest since Feb. 16, on reports that Chinese zinc smelters are planning maintenance that could cut 540,000 tonnes a year of capacity. That could mean a larger than expected zinc deficit this year.

* TIN: Price hits $20,495 a tonne, its highest since Jan. 25, on concern about shortages on the LME market after cancelled warrants rise to nearly 50 percent of stocks. MSNSTX-TOTAL

* TIN PREMIUM: The backwardation, or premium, for cash tin over the three-month contract strengthened to $171 a tonne, its highest since December. MSN0-3

LME/SHFE ARBITRAGE

PRICES

Three month LME copper

Most active ShFE copper

Three month LME aluminium

Most active ShFE aluminium

Three month LME zinc

Most active ShFE zinc

Three month LME lead

Most active ShFE lead

Three month LME nickel

Most active ShFE nickel

Three month LME tin

Most active ShFE tin

(Reporting by Pratima Desai; Editing by David Goodman)

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