* GRAPHIC-2019 asset returns: tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl (Updates with closing prices)
By Eric Onstad
LONDON, March 6 (Reuters) - Aluminium and other industrial metals drifted lower on Wednesday as investors awaited more signs on whether demand in top metals consumer China would rebound after the Lunar New Year.
So far, signs of metal demand in China have been lacklustre, with rising inventories in the world’s second-largest economy and weak physical premiums.
“We’re in a holding zone here with two key areas of focus. The China February macro data and secondly, whether we start to see more evidence of a seasonal pick up in demand,” said analyst Nicholas Snowdon at Deutsche Bank in London.
“There are more questions to be answered and in that context it’s a point where you’re not going to see investors building on positions built up over the past month or so, conviction will remain relatively limited.”
The London Metal Exchange index of six major base metals has gained 5 percent over the past three weeks, with data showing net long positions building up in many of the metals.
LME benchmark aluminium dropped 0.4 percent to $1,866 a tonne in closing open outcry activity.
* GLOBAL GROWTH: Also weighing on the market were concerns about global growth after the OECD on Tuesday cut forecasts again for the global economy in 2019 and 2020, warning that trade disputes and uncertainty over Brexit would hit world commerce and businesses.
* COPPER SPREADS: The premium of cash LME copper over the three-month contract CMCU0-3 rose to $70 a tonne, the highest since January 2015, indicating tight availability. Analysts say the shortages are mainly in the LME system, with supply available elsewhere. One trader said a large shipment of copper was heading to LME warehouses.
LME three-month copper declined 0.2 percent to finish at $6,468 a tonne.
* NICKEL: Shanghai nickel prices rose sharply on low inventory levels and recovering demand.
The most-traded May nickel contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange rose as much as 1.9 percent to 106,460 yuan ($15,859) a tonne, its highest since Oct. 10, before closing at 106,040 yuan.
LME nickel fell 0.5 percent to end at $13,585 a tonne.
* NICKEL STOCKS: LME nickel inventories extended their decline to the lowest since July 2013, data showed, while China’s nickel ore inventory has dropped 12 percent so far this year, Argonaut Securities analyst Helen Lau wrote in a note.
* NPI: Brokerage Marex Spectron said it believed the recent nickel rally had been supported by maintenance at nickel pig iron plants in China’s Inner Mongolia. “That was fuelled by a shortage of electricity with plans for shutdowns over this and the near months,” it wrote.
* PRICES: Zinc closed 0.3 percent firmer at $2,788 a tonne, lead shed 0.3 percent to $2,095 and tin slipped 0.8 percent to $21,400.
($1 = 6.7127 Chinese yuan)
Additional reporting by Tom Daly in BEIJING and Enrico Dela Cruz in MANILA; Editing by Louise Heavens and David Evans