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METALS-London zinc charges to 9-yr high, lead hits 5-yr high

* Zinc, lead surge on lower dollar

* Signs of inflation coming boost interest

* Industrial activity in China a positive (Updates prices)

By James Regan

SYDNEY, Nov 28 London Metal Exchange zinc surged to its highest in nine years on Monday and lead hit a five-year peak as a searing rally in metals gained steam on a softer dollar and inflation expectations.

Investors have ploughed into metals on signs of a global recovery, improving the demand outlook for metals, as well as expectations of higher interest rates. Hard assets are an attractive hedge against inflation because they tend to hold their value as rates rise, cooling gains in other asset classes.

Traders said zinc, which is used in steel production, was given a boost by news of a Chinese clampdown on illegal expansions by steel mills and further environmental probes.

"Sentiment in the Chinese steel market picked up after the Chinese government pledged to clamp down on illegally expanded capacity. This helped push steel prices higher," ANZ said in a report.

Profit growth in China's industrial sector was also fuelling positive sentiment towards metals, according to traders.

Industrial profits picked up in October, aided by stronger sales and higher prices, suggesting further strengthening of the world's second-largest economy.

LME zinc surged more than 5 percent to $2,970 a tonne, which was its highest since October 2007. By 0700 GMT, zinc had retraced to $2,960 a tonne.

Imports of refined zinc into China in October jumped over 50 percent from the previous month as demand for galvanised steel improved, ANZ noted.

LME lead galloped more than 6 percent, matching Friday's gains and hitting its highest level in more than five years.

"The mood for all the metals today is positive. All of a sudden, there's this perception that maybe some people are too short on lead, just like zinc," said a Perth-based trader.

LME copper rose over 2 percent to $6,025 a tonne, after closing little changed in the previous session.

December's holiday slowdown period could soon put a cap on copper, which is heading for its biggest monthly gain in more than a decade in November, said Bonnie Liu, general manager of GF Futures.

"It will be hard to see another major push in the near future," she said.

In Shanghai, zinc and lead surged as much as 7 percent while ShFE copper erased some of its earlier gains to trade over 2 percent higher at 49,380 yuan ($7,154)a tonne in volatile trade.

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

($1 = 6.9026 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by James Regan; Additional reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Richard Pullin and Subhranshu Sahu)

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