March 14, 2016 / 3:17 PM / 3 years ago

METALS-Aluminium hits 3-week low after mixed China data, firmer dollar

* Dollar firms before U.S., Japan central bank meetings

* China’s fixed asset investment beats expectations

* Copper speculators add to bullish position in past week (Updates with closing prices)

By Eric Onstad

LONDON, March 14 (Reuters) - Aluminium hit a three-week low on Monday and copper also fell, weighed by a stronger dollar and weak Chinese industrial output.

Chinese factory output growth during the first two months of the year was the weakest since the global financial crisis, while retail sales rose by the least since May 2015.

Fixed asset investment (FAI), however, was higher than expected and there were signs of recovery in the country’s property sector.

“The China data is a bit confusing because industrial production was a very weak number, but FAI was up,” said Wiktor Bielski, head of commodities research at VTB Capital in London.

Three-month aluminium on the London Metal Exchange closed 1.2 percent lower at $1,542.50 a tonne after touching $1,536, the weakest since Feb. 19.

China Hongqiao Group Limited, the top primary aluminium producer in the country, posted a 36.8 percent jump in production last year, evidence of oversupply hitting prices.

Also weighing on the metal market was a firmer dollar index as investors geared up for Japanese and U.S. central bank policy meetings.

A stronger dollar pressures commodities priced in the U.S. currency, making them more expensive for buyers using other currencies.

LME copper shed 0.5 percent to end at $4,946 a tonne, after touching a four-month peak of $5,059 on March 4 and gaining 1.6 percent in the prior session.

Hedge funds and money managers increased their net long positions in COMEX copper futures and options in the latest week to the most optimistic since May, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data showed on Friday.

“This has generated correction potential, as the copper price is likely to come under pressure in the event of profit-taking,” Commerzbank said in a note.

Nickel slid 2.5 percent to finish at $8,610 a tonne.

Nickel prices were unlikely to rise unless loss-making producers start to shut mines, an executive of the biggest producer, Norilsk Nickel, told the Financial Times.

VTB Capital’s Bielski expects nickel mine closures soon. “Some 70 percent of producers have been losing money for six to nine months and you just can’t keep losing money for that length of time.”

Zinc closed down 1 percent at $1,785 a tonne, lead fell 0.8 percent to end at $1,836 and tin gave up 1.2 percent to $16,900.

PRICES

Three month LME copper

Most active ShFE copper

Three month LME aluminium

Most active ShFE aluminium

Three month LME zinc

Most active ShFE zinc

Three month LME lead

Most active ShFE lead

Three month LME nickel

Most active ShFE nickel

Three month LME tin

Most active ShFE tin (Additional reporting by Melanie Burton in Melbourne; Editing by Keith Weir and Alexander Smith)

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