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LONDON: Copper prices edged lower on Friday as strong Chinese inflation data raised fears that the world’s biggest metals consumer will tighten monetary policy, though expected supply tightness kept prices on course for a weekly gain.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was down 1% at $8,919 a tonne at 1702 GMT but on course for its first weekly rise in a month, up about 1.5%.

A barnstorming economic recovery in China and speculative buying pushed the metal used in power and construction to $9,617 in February, its highest in a decade, before prices stagnated.

The gains should resume as countries pump money into copper-intensive infrastructure and electrification, said WisdomTree analyst Nitesh Shah, though he cautioned that the journey higher could be bumpy.

“The long-term story is just very positive,” he said. “I really doubt that miners are going to be able to keep up with the pace of demand.”

Factory gate prices in China rose in March at their fastest annual pace since July 2018. Chinese stock markets fell as investors anticipated tighter monetary policy to contain inflation.

Despite the falls in China, global stocks hit record highs. The dollar gained, putting metals under pressure by making them more costly for non-US buyers.

A delayed seasonal increase in Chinese copper demand is sapping momentum from the metal’s rally.

Yangshan import premiums fell to $51.50 a tonne from more than $70 a month ago, suggesting lower Chinese demand for overseas metal.

China’s refined copper imports this year are expected to fall by about 27% from last year’s bumper levels and primary aluminium inflows will more than halve, researchers Antaike said.

LME aluminium was down 1.1% at $2,257.50 a tonne, zinc fell 0.7% to $2,834.50, nickel was 1.3% lower at $16,610, lead slipped 0.5% to $1,974 and tin was down 0.3% at $25,715. All were on track for weekly gains.

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