* Report says nickel pig iron output is rising in China
* Copper dips to one-week low
* Zinc only metal in positive territory on stocks fall (Updates with closing prices, adds nickel balance data)
By Eric Onstad
LONDON, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Nickel hit a one-month low on Thursday, with copper and lead prices also in the red, as investors worried about Chinese growth and higher U.S. interest rates.
Zinc, meanwhile, bucked the trend with gains on the back of tightened inventory levels.
Macroeconomic concerns continued to bedevil the industrial metals sector, even though many of the metals showed signs of supply tightness, said Warren Patterson, commodities strategist at ING Bank in Amsterdam.
“Generally the base metals complex is under pressure from outside influences, such as the Fed comments, which were pretty hawkish,” he said, referring to the U.S. central bank.
Federal Reserve policymakers are largely united on the need to raise borrowing costs further, minutes from their September policy meeting showed, while Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China’s economy faced increasing downward pressure, ahead of GDP data due on Friday.
“I continue to believe that copper is looking fairly cheap ... but as long as we’ve got this stronger dollar and the threat of further tariffs on Chinese goods, the speculators are looking at avoiding copper altogether,” Patterson added.
Three-month nickel on the London Metal Exchange closed 0.2 percent down at $12,350 a tonne, paring losses after touching $12,200, its lowest since Sept. 18.
LME copper slipped 1 percent to end at a one-week low of $6,157 a tonne.
* COPPER PREMIUM: The Chinese copper premium for physical material SMM-CUYP-CN dipped to $117.50 a tonne from $120.
* NICKEL BALANCE: The global nickel market deficit narrowed to 7,100 tonnes in August from the previous month’s revised deficit of 16,500 tonnes, data showed on Thursday.
* NICKEL PIG IRON: Another negative factor for nickel was a report about rising output of NPI, a lower-nickel-content substitute for refined nickel often used in stainless steel.
“China’s NPI output has (reportedly) climbed to the highest daily rate in over 4 years in Sept at 43,400 tonnes of contained metal,” Alastair Munro at broker Marex Spectron said in a note.
* INDONESIA TIN: Tin prices were supported by news that the Indonesia Commodity & Derivatives Exchange has suspended trading of tin ingots and tin ore with origin verified by PT. Surveyor Indonesia.
LME tin finished 0.3 percent down at $19,025 a tonne.
* ZINC STOCKS: On-warrant LME zinc stocks MZNSTX-TOTAL, those not earmarked for delivery, tumbled 23 percent to 105,400 tonnes, the lowest since February.
LME zinc was the only metal to end in positive territory, closing up 0.7 percent at $2,683.50 a tonne.
* ALUMINIUM TECHNICALS: LME aluminium gave up 0.5 percent to $2,013 a tonne.
“Although the technical set-up looks weak, only a definite close below $2,013/$2,010 would mean an extended correction towards multi-months lows of $2,001/$1,998 and perhaps even $1,977,” Stephanie Aymes, head of technical analysis at Societe Generale, said in a note.
* LEAD: LME lead slid 2.2 percent to end at $2,002 a tonne.
Reporting by Eric Onstad Editing by Mark Potter and David Goodman