(Reuters) - London copper peeked above four-month lows on Friday on short-covering and signs that Greeks are warming to pro-austerity parties, allaying some fears the country could leave the euro zone.
Still, worries about Spain's finances and reports of Chinese copper inflows onto the London Metal Exchange (LME) will likely cap gains in the session.
Three-month LME copper inched up 0.4 percent to $7,682 a metric ton (1.1023 tons) by 00:25 a.m. EDT, after closing almost flat in the previous session.
The most active August copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) fell 0.3 percent to 55,580 yuan ($8,800) a tonne, a partial rebound after a steeper fall at the open.
The Shanghai contract rose 1.9 percent on Thursday, much more than its London counterpart, after diving on Wednesday to its cheapest since December 20.
LME copper started rising after bouts of short-covering on the ShFE this morning ... I think this triggered the metal's upward momentum and helped lift London prices, said a Shanghai-based trader with an international firm.
London copper is also tracking the rise of base metals like aluminium, zinc and lead, which started floating higher since yesterday. Those metals are trading closer to their marginal production cost than copper, so they have rebounded faster, he added.
Copper prices may also have been weighed down this week by a hefty inflow into LME warehouses from China. Traders said China's smelters and merchants may have added around 110,000 tonnes to LME warehouses in South Korea.
The exports came just two weeks after the trading unit of Jiangxi Copper Co Ltd (0358.HK) (600362.SS), China's top producer, said a group of copper smelters as well as trading firms would export refined copper cathodes to LME to help ease tight global supplies and trim near-record stockpiles at home.
Regarding the euro zone, a poll showing Greek voters returning to pro-bailout parties helped improve sentiment ahead of a snap election in Greece next month, which many still fear could empower anti-austerity leftists and prompt Greece to quit the euro.
Separately, a German Bundesbank board member told Reuters in that euro zone banks are in better shape than before the financial crisis, and those in Germany are equipped to cope with Greece taking a turn for the worse.
Any price gains in the session will be fragile in light of the debt issues still clouding the euro zone.
Even as investors were able to take a brief respite from fears of a Greek default, bad news in Spain - the euro zone's fourth-largest economy - illustrates Europe's dire economic situation.
Spain's borrowing costs spiked at a bond auction on Thursday, while shares in its troubled lender Bankia (BKIA.MC) dived as 16 other banks suffered a credit ratings cut. Official data also confirmed that the country was back in recession.
Contributing to investor caution was the high number of new claims for U.S. jobless benefits last week, which suggested sluggish growth in hiring. Factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region also contracted in May, worrisome signs for a still-fragile economic recovery.
($1 = 6.3252 Chinese yuan)