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LONDON: Copper prices held steady on Wednesday as low inventories and prospects for healthy demand this year were offset by a firmer dollar and below-consensus data from top consumer China.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was up 0.2% at $7,992 a tonne at 1715 GMT. Profit-taking has pushed copper prices down from last week’s eight-year peak above $8,200.

BoA Securities analyst Michael Widmer said stocks in LME-registered warehouses suggest robust fundamentals.

“2021 will be a year of reflation, higher growth and strong demand for metals,” Widmer said, adding that he expects a small copper market deficit this year with demand rising to 24.76 million tonnes, up 6% from 2020.

Copper stocks in LME-registered warehouses, at 102,550 tonnes, are down more than 40% since last October. Cancelled warrants - metal earmarked for delivery - at 36% suggest that more copper is likely to leave LME warrant.

Concerns about copper availability on the LME market have narrowed the discount for cash copper against the three-month contract.

A rising US currency makes dollar-denominated commodities more expensive for holders of other currencies, which could subdue demand.

Chinese banks made 1.26 trillion yuan ($195 billion) in new loans in December, down from 1.43 trillion yuan the previous month, while the widely watched total social financing number fell to 1.72 trillion yuan from 2.13 trillion yuan.

China’s economy is forecast to grow 8.4% this year, against estimates of about 2.1% for 2020, a Reuters survey showed.

Prices of the stainless steel ingredient are heading towards last week’s 16-month high of $18,200 as supply worries dominate. It was last up 0.1% at $17,680 a tonne.

Eramet warned that its New Caledonia subsidiary SLN, the world’s fourth-largest nickel producer, was at risk of liquidation within weeks if protests continue to disrupt its operations.

Aluminium was down 0.4% at $2,012 a tonne, zinc was little changed at $2,779, lead climbed 1.4% to $2,050 and tin was up 0.2% at $20,960.