* GRAPHIC-2019 asset returns: tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl
* Nickel supply concerns ease (Updates prices)
By Pratima Desai
LONDON, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Copper prices fell on Wednesday as concern about demand and economic growth dominated sentiment, though rising hopes for a solution to a prolonged trade dispute between China and the United States limited losses.
Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange was untraded in official rings but bid down 0.8% at $5,777 a tonne. Prices of the metal used widely in power and construction hit a 1-1/2-month high of $5,980 last week.
“Base metals will struggle for a while longer, but we are getting to the point where people will start favouring risk again,” said Oxford Economics analyst Dan Smith, adding that next year’s U.S. presidential election would be a catalyst “for Donald Trump to try to calm things down on the trade front”.
Markets are also focused on the outcome of a two-day meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve later on Wednesday.
FED: Despite divisions over whether a reduction in borrowing costs is needed, the Fed is widely expected to cut interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point for the second time this year.
Markets will scrutinise its policy statement and Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s comments at a news conference.
“With the Fed rate decision tonight followed by Bank of Japan tomorrow, central bank easing measures may be viewed as slightly supportive,” Marex Spectron analysts said in a note.
TRADE: President Trump on Tuesday said that his administration could seal a deal on trade with China before the U.S. presidential election, or an agreement could be reached the day after U.S. voters go to the polls.
Trump’s comments came two days before U.S. and Chinese deputy trade negotiators are due to meet in Washington for the first face-to-face meetings in nearly two months.
CHINA: Weaker manufacturing activity in China has hit prices of industrial metals. It accounts for nearly half of global consumption of metals such as copper.
However, analysts expect a growth recovery over the next few months as Chinese authorities cut rates and provide further stimulus to boost economic activity.
NICKEL: Easing worries about the availability of the steelmaking ingredient has reduced the premium for cash nickel over the three-month contract to $93 a tonne MNI0-3 from $163 last week, the highest level since April 2009.
Contributing to that are rising stocks of nickel in LME-registered warehouses MNISTX-TOTAL, which are up 10% since early August at 161,538 tonnes.
Three-month nickel gained 0.3% to $17,075 a tonne.
OTHER METALS: Aluminium was down 0.6% at $1,782 a tonne, zinc lost 1.2% to $2,320, lead gained 0.4% to $2,065 and tin was unchanged at $16,850. (Reporting by Pratima Desai Additional reporting by Mai Nguyen Editing by Deepa Babington and David Goodman)