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LONDON: Copper prices dipped on Friday as speculators locked in profits after July recorded a fourth straight month of gains for the metal amid a recovery in top consumer China. Computer-driven trading funds have dominated activity recently, creating volatility, said Alastair Munro at broker Marex Spectron.

"In the traditional summer trading lull we expect to see more of this whippy price action," he said in a note. Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange was down 0.3% at $6,413 a tonne at 1600 GMT, giving up earlier gains and extending its decline from Thursday.

Copper was still on course, however, for a 6.6% gain in July, having risen every month since April amid a China-led recovery in demand following the coronavirus outbreak. Copper has surged more than 40% since touching the lowest in over four years in March.

Data showed on Friday that China's factories stepped up activity in July for a fifth consecutive month as the manufacturing Purchasing Manager's Index marked its highest reading since March.

"The numbers in China could continue to recover," said Xiao Fu, head of commodity market strategy at Bank of China International in London. "Normally during the summer months there tends to be a seasonal slowdown, but this year could be different because companies will try to ramp up as much as they can to make up for lost time earlier this year," Fu said.

A slightly firmer dollar index weighed on metals, although it was still on track for its biggest monthly decline in 10 years. A stronger dollar makes dollar-denominated metals more expensive for holders of other currencies.

Copper inventories in LME warehouses fell to new six-month lows of 128,125 tonnes, the lowest since Jan. 17. LME aluminium shed 0.4% to $1,712.50 a tonne, but was set for a near 6% jump in July, which would be its biggest monthly rise since April 2018.

Zinc climbed to a six-month peak of $2,334 and was headed for a monthly gain of 13%, the most since September 2012. It was last up 1.5% at $2,321. Nickel rose 0.4% to $13,780, lead gained 0.2% to $1,876, and tin added 0.3% to $17,865.