* Focus shifts to conclusion of Fed meeting on Wednesday
* Nickel supported by prospect of full-scale mining ban
* China data reinforces idea of stronger demand (Adds closing prices)
By Pratima Desai
LONDON, March 14 (Reuters) - Copper prices climbed on Tuesday as funds bought on growing expectations of stronger demand from top consumer China, but a higher dollar ahead of Wednesday’s decision on U.S. interest rates by the Federal Reserve capped gains.
The benchmark copper contract on the London Metal Exchange ended up 0.4 percent at $5,820 a tonne, nearly 3 percent above the two-month low at $5,652 hit last week.
Traders said buying after the New York open helped copper to reverse early losses.
China issued data on Tuesday showing the economy got off to a strong start this year, supported by bank lending, infrastructure spending and a much-needed resurgence in private investment.
China accounts for just under half of global copper demand, which is estimated at around 23 million tonnes this year.
“A lot will depend on what the Fed does, but the demand signals from China are improving, the data was positive,” Citi analyst David Wilson said.
The Fed’s two-day meeting is expected to conclude on Wednesday with a rate rise, which could boost the U.S. currency, making dollar-denominated metals more expensive for non-U.S. firms and potentially weaken demand.
However, copper has been supported for some time by disruptions to output in Chile and Peru due to strikes and in Indonesia, where the government has halted exports of copper concentrate from Freeport-McMoRan’s Grasberg mine.
“Supply-side issues should continue to support metal prices; however investors are likely to remain cautious leading into the FOMC (Fed) meeting and other key economic releases,” ANZ analysts said in a note.
The three-month nickel price gained 0.7 percent to $10,230 a tonne, underpinned by the prospects of a full-scale mining ban in the Philippines, the world’s top exporter of nickel ore.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte accused some miners of funding efforts to destabilise his government and he talked about a possible plan to impose a ban on mining given the environmental damage producers have caused.
Aluminium fell 1.2 percent to $1,860, zinc rose 0.2 percent to $2,749.5, lead slid 2.2 percent to $2,223.5 and tin gained 2.7 percent to $19,970.
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 (Editing by Ruth Pitchford and David Evans; Editing by Greg Mahlich)