May 24, 2018 / 10:07 AM / 3 months ago

METALS-Lead hits highest since late February, copper firms

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

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

By Jan Harvey

LONDON, May 24 (Reuters) - Lead hit its highest in nearly three months on Thursday as a plunge in available LME warehouse stocks fed into this week's price rally, while copper edged up after the previous session's sharp losses.

Lead is the biggest riser among industrial metals this week, climbing more than 7 percent since last Friday's close.

The drop in on-warrant lead stocks to the lowest level in five years is feeding into Thursday's price rise, Commerzbank analyst Daniel Briesemann said, though other factors were at play in the metal's broader rise this week.

"Financial investors are long lead and short zinc at the moment," he said. "The technical picture has clearly brightened for lead. The price has just closed above the 100 and 200-day moving averages, and it also looks to have exceeded the $2,500 mark, which could lead to some follow-up buying."

The lead market deficit exceeded most expecations in the first quarter, he added, though it is likely to narrow.

Copper recovered some lost ground after Wednesday's 1.6 percent fall, though appetite for risk remained fragile after U.S. President Donald Trump called off a planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

* LEAD PRICES: Three-month lead on the London Metal Exchange hit its highest since Feb. 28 at $2,515 a tonne, before closing at $2,494, up 0.7 percent.

* LEAD STOCKS: On-warrant lead stocks in LME warehouses -- material not earmarked for delivery and therefore available to the market -- fell by 21,250 tonnes, or 23 percent, to 72,000 tonnes, exchange data showed on Thursday. Stocks are now at their lowest level since mid-2013.

* ZINC PRICES: LME zinc ended the day up 0.2 percent at $3,034 a tonne.

* LME COPPER: Copper finished at $6,880 a tonne, up 0.2 percent, having suffered its biggest one-day decline since April 27 in the previous session.

* VEDANTA SMELTER: Indian authorities cut the power to a large copper smelter run by London-listed Vedanta Resources after police shot and killed 13 people in protests against what they say is pollution generated by the plant.

* RUSAL SHIPMENTS: Russian aluminium producer Rusal resumed shipments to some customers last week after an extension of the deadline for companies to wind down contracts with the Russian company under U.S. sanctions.

* RUSAL BOARD: Rusal said its chief executive and seven board members have quit and warned that it may have problems servicing its debt because of the U.S. sanctions.

* ALUMINIUM: Aluminium closed up 0.4 percent at $2,280 a tonne.

* OTHER METALS: LME nickel finished the day up 1.7 percent at $14,900 a tonne, while tin ended down 1 percent at $20,425 a tonne.

Additional reporting by Tom Daly in Beijing Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Adrian Croft

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