* LME/ShFE arb: bit.ly/2wZSAE
* GRAPHIC-2018 asset returns: tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl (Updates with closing prices)
By Zandi Shabalala
LONDON, June 18 (Reuters) - Copper eased for a third session on Monday on fears trade tensions between the world's two largest economies could escalate and demand from China could cool after last week's lacklustre data.
Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange ended 0.8 percent lower at $6,964 per tonne, amid thin trade due to a Chinese holiday. The industrial metal earlier touched its weakest since June 1 at $6,886.75.
"Metals are still being pulled down by the looming trade war between China and the United States," said Commerzbank senior commodity analyst Daniel Briesemann.
"If sentiment worsens further then this will weigh further on metals prices. Metals could be affected directly if it comes to tariffs on automobiles and automobile parts."
U.S.-CHINA: U.S. President Donald Trump said he was pushing ahead with hefty tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports on Friday as Beijing immediately vowed to respond in kind.
CHINA DATA: China posted weaker-than-expected industrial output, investment and retail sales for May on Thursday, signalling further weakness ahead if Beijing sustains its crackdown on factory pollution and local government spending.
China is the world's top consumer of metals such as copper and any sign of weakness in its economy saps demand for the industrial metals.
METALS DEMAND: Japan's exports rose in May at the fastest pace in four months thanks to increased shipments of cars, car parts, and semiconductor equipment in a sign that global demand is gaining strength.
DOLLAR: The dollar rose against a basket of currencies on Monday, approaching seven-month highs on bets the United States and China will avoid a full-blown trade war, although tensions between the two slowed its gains.
INVESTORS: Hedge funds and money managers raised their net long positions in COMEX copper in the week to June 12 by 28,941 contracts to 77,740 contracts, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) data showed on Friday. This was the strongest net long position since January.
ALUMINIUM: Aluminium hit its weakest in nearly eight weeks at $2,193.50, but recovered to close 0.8 percent higher at $2,280.50 per tonne. Support is seen at $2,175 a tonne, the 200-day moving average.
COBALT: Panasonic Corp expects to more than triple its cobalt consumption in five years' time, industry sources said, even as the company aims to develop cobalt-free automotive batteries in the near future.
PRICES: Lead ended 1.2 percent higher at $2,433.50 per tonne, tin was down 1.4 percent at $20,505, zinc was down 0.4 percent to $3,067, while nickel slipped 1.4 percent to $14,975.
Additional reporting by Melanie Burton in MELBOURNE Editing by Mark Potter and Edmund Blair