METALS-Nickel hits near 11-month low as speculators step up pressure

* Copper on track for biggest weekly drop since August

* Zinc premium of cash over 3 months highest in over a year (Recasts with nickel hitting fresh low, adds analyst comments)

LONDON, Nov 9 (Reuters) – Nickel slumped to its lowest price in nearly 11 months on Friday and other industrial metals slid as speculators unleashed more selling due to worries about higher U.S. interest rates and slowing Chinese economic growth.

Copper headed for its biggest weekly drop since mid-August as investors shunned riskier assets such as commodities and shares.

Prices took a hit after the U.S. central bank on Thursday confirmed a gradual rise in interest rates while data showed weak Chinese car sales. 1/8nL4N1XK370 3/4

“Base metals are on the defensive this morning and that’s not surprising because the dollar is very strong, we’ve seen some weakness on stock markets overnight and the Chinese currency is a bit weaker,” said Robin Bhar, head of metals research at Societe Generale in London.

The stronger U.S. currency makes dollar-denominated metals more expensive for buyers paying in other currencies.

“There’s still negative macro sentiment, which seems to be winning the day, and for the moment investors seem happy to either sit on the sidelines or hold short positions,” Bhar added.

While supply/demand fundamentals had supported copper prices, macroeconomic concerns such as U.S.-China trade tensions have been capping gains in the metal used in power and construction. Copper hit a 4-1/2-year high in June.

Three-month nickel on the London Metal Exchange was down 3 percent at $11,430 a tonne by 1500 GMT, its weakest since Dec. 15 last year.

NICKEL TECHNICALS: Chart indicators show nickel has more downside, Stéphanie Aymes, head of technical analysis at Societe Generale, said in a note. “Nickel could halt temporarily its down move once the next objective at $11,040 is met.”

* COPPER: Three-month LME copper fell 1.8 percent to $6,045 a tonne, poised for its biggest weekly loss since the week to Aug. 17 with a decline of nearly 4 percent.

* STEEL: Nickel and zinc, mainly used in the steel industry, were pressured after China’s steel futures edged lower on Friday and posted their second weekly drop amid signs that steel output in the world’s top producer would remain high.

LME benchmark zinc shed 0.8 percent to $2,503 a tonne.

* ZINC SPREAD: The premium of cash zinc over the three-month contract <CMZN0-3> surged to $65 a tonne, the highest since October last year, indicating nearby shortages of physical refined metal.

* LEAD: LME lead, which slipped 1.9 percent to $1,965.50 a tonne, exhibits the largest speculative short position of the LME complex, according to Marex Spectron’s estimates based on Monday’s close, a note said.

* PRICES: Aluminium dropped 1.3 percent to $1,964 while tin lost 0.4 percent to $19,255.

(Additional reporting by Mai Nguyen in Singapore; Editing by Dale Hudson and Susan Fenton)

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