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Copper set for strongest monthly rise since September 2012


LONDON - Copper prices rose to their highest in more than four months on Friday, lifted by tightening supplies and expectations that economic recovery in top consumer China will help boost demand for industrial metals next year.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange gained 1.7 percent to $7,397 a tonne by 1513 GMT, having hit its highest since mid-August at $7,410. The exchange resumed trading on Friday after a two-day holiday.

Copper prices are on track to rise almost 5 percent in December, their biggest monthly gain since September last year, but are still 7 percent lower in the year to date.

Prices broke below $7,000 a tonne in mid-November after holding in a $7,000-$7,400 range since August.

China's economic growth is likely to come in at 7.6 percent this year, according to a cabinet report cited by the official Xinhua news agency, just above the government's target of 7.5 percent and slightly below last year's 7.7 percent.

Its industrial output is likely to grow by about 9.8 percent in 2013, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said on Friday.

China is the world's largest consumer of copper, accounting for as much as 40 percent of global refined demand.

"You will have some temporary seasonal restocking in China, ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays. But overall the upside will be capped by a stronger dollar in 2014," said Andrey Kryuchenkov, analyst at VTB Capital.

Buying in China is expected to wind down during the Lunar New Year holidays in January.

In a further boost to prices, the dollar remained weak against a basket of currencies. A weak dollar makes commodities priced in the U.S. unit cheaper for holders of other currencies.

Also supporting copper prices has been a lack of readily available metal due to falling exchange stocks.

The latest LME data showed copper stocks in exchange-registered warehouses dropped to their lowest since January at 370,950 tonnes.

LME cash copper surged in mid-December to a $30 premium against the three-month contract , the highest since May 2012. It last traded at a $13 premium.

Still, ample copper concentrate seen flowing into the market next year will eventually feed into more stocks of refined copper, swelling supply and overhanging prices, said Dominic Schnider at UBS Wealth Management inSingapore.

"The next target in the coming weeks is $7,500 - but (there) I would be a seller," he added.

LME zinc gained 1.4 percent to $2,101 a tonne after setting a 10-month high at $2,105.50, lifted by tighter supplies and firm demand.

Lead climbed 1.8 percent to $2,285.50 a tonne. rose to a peak of $2,287.50 a tonne, its highest since March 1, on technical buying after it broke through resistance at $2,259.25.

LME tin rose 0.3 percent to $22,990 a tonne, while aluminium was the biggest percentage gainer, surging 2.9 percent to $1,805. Nickel added 1.5 percent to $14,308.

Indonesia will provide exemptions to its 2014 mineral export ban for firms that process ore domestically, its mining minister said on Friday, providing some potential relief for mining giants Freeport and Newmont.