March 26, 2018 / 9:50 AM / in 9 months

METALS-Copper slides to 3-1/2 month low as inventories jump

* Copper slides to weakest since Dec. 8 at $6,532/T

* LME/ShFE arb: bit.ly/2wZSAEz

* GRAPHIC-2018 asset returns: tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl (Updates with closing prices)

By Jan Harvey

LONDON, March 26 (Reuters) - Copper slid to its lowest since early December on Monday, weighed down by a sharp rise in stockpiles and simmering concerns over the outlook for U.S.-China trade relations.

U.S. President Donald Trump signed a memorandum on Friday that could impose up to $60 billion in import tariffs on Chinese goods. That sparked a sharp drop in equities, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling more than 400 points.

Reports that talks have begun to improve U.S. access to Chinese markets helped to allay fears over a potential trade war, leading to a bounce in equities on Monday and an upturn across most other base metals. However, concerns linger that growth, and consequently metals demand, could be hit.

"This was more fallout from the big equity decline we saw on Friday, and then this morning we had a 35,000 tonne increase in stocks," said Societe Generale analyst Robin Bhar.

"I think the worst is over for copper and we should recoup some of those losses ... later this week. (But) that obviously depends on some of the rhetoric that follows what happened on Friday."

* LME COPPER: London Metal Exchange copper closed 0.9 percent down at $6,603 a tonne, having touched a low of $6,532, its weakest since early December.

* COPPER STOCKS: Copper inventories in LME warehouses MCUSTOX-TOTAL rose by 35,000 tonnes to 352,750 tonnes, exchange data showed on Monday. On-warrant stocks have nearly doubled this year and are at their most elevated since September 2016.

* COPPER TECHNICALS: LME copper closed below the 200-day moving average on Friday, sending a "sell" signal to momentum-following funds.

* COPPER POSITIONING: Open interest in LME copper, a measure of activity in the global contract, fell to its lowest in more than two years last week. In Shanghai, however, open interest has jumped since mid-January to three-year highs, suggesting large short positions have been building in China.

* SPECULATORS: Hedge funds and money managers cut their net long positions in COMEX copper contracts in the week to March 20, the latest regulatory data showed.

* CHINA IMPORTS: China's refined copper imports fell by 1.8 pct in February to 229,611 tonnes, Chinese customs data showed on Monday. Primary aluminium imports slid by 47 percent, while zinc imports jumped by 151 percent.

* ALUMINIUM PRICES: LME aluminium ended the day with a 0.1 percent gain at $2,052 a tonne.

* OTHER METALS: LME zinc finished 1.4 percent up at $3,260.50, with lead up 2 percent at $2,387. Nickel ended little changed at $12,955 while tin was up 0.5 percent at $20,860. (Reporting by Jan Harvey; Additional reporting by Melanie Burton in Melbourne Editing by David Goodman)

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