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LONDON: Copper prices edged lower on Thursday as fears over the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant and slowing economic growth in China weakened the outlook for demand.

Global stock markets fell after the United States and France reported their first Omicron cases and countries around the world tightened travel restrictions.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was down 0.3% at $9,420 a tonne in official trading and down about 4% from a week ago.

However, prices are still up about 20% this year and near a record high of $10,747.50 reached in May.

Metals have held up much better than oil, which has fallen by about 15% in the past week, said WisdomTree analyst Nitesh Shah.

"This underscores how strong demand for copper is and how likely it is to come out of this period with structural strength," he said.

Copper hits two-week low on Omicron uncertainty and Fed comments

"As long as the market's thinking about the medium-term growth, copper should hold up pretty well."

RALLY: Used to transmit power, copper has been boosted by massive government stimulus and expectations of investment in infrastructure for electrification.

CHINA GROWTH: Advisers to China's government will recommend authorities set a 2022 economic growth target of 5-5.5%, below the target of more than 6% for 2021, sources said.

CHINA PROPERTY: Three Chinese developers plan to sell bonds in China to raise a combined 18 billion yuan ($2.83 billion), which should ease liquidity strains on the sector.

However, analysts still expect China's property downturn - which has weighed on metals prices - to continue into the first half of 2022.

CHILE: The world's largest copper producer, Chile's Codelco, expects copper prices to fall in 2022 and the market to be oversupplied until 2024.

FORECASTS: Commerzbank analysts said they expect copper prices to average $9,400 a tonne next year while Bank of America predicted copper would average $9,813.

ALUMINIUM: On-warrant aluminium inventories in LME-registered warehouses rose by 16% to 677,225 tonnes, data showed.

PRICES: Benchmark LME aluminium was down 0.9% at $2,639.50 a tonne, zinc rose 0.4% to $3,214, nickel gained 0.4% to $20,020, lead fell 0.5% to $2,289.50 and tin was down 1% at $38,700.

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