LONDON, April 20 (Reuters) – Aluminium prices steadied near seven-year highs on Friday, set for a 9 percent gain on the week after several days of volatile trading as the market digested the impact of U.S. sanctions on Russia’s Rusal, the world’s second-biggest producer. Nickel, meanwhile, fell as fears diminished that sanctions could be broadened to Nornickel. Benchmark aluminium on the London Metal Exchange was down 0.1 percent at $2,483.50 a tonne by 1049 GMT. The metal has soared almost 24 percent since sanctions on Rusal and its billionaire owner Oleg Deripaska this month forced international banks, miners and exchanges to curb their connections to the company. Rusal accounted for more than 6 percent of global aluminium supplies estimated at about 63 million tonnes last year. Aluminium hit a seven-year peak of $2,718 a tonne on Thursday before falling back. “We are starting to reach fundamental headwinds,” said ING analyst Oliver Nugent. The LME price has risen much faster than prices in China, opening the possibility that China could begin to export metal and fill some of the supply gap left by Rusal. “It could for the first time be profitable to export Chinese metal. There’s a hope and a feeling that China will be able to offset a lot of this void (in aluminium supply),” Nugent said. The most-traded June aluminium contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange has risen only about 7 percent since the April 6 sanctions. Traders were also more optimistic that Rusal might avoid destruction after the Russian government said it could nationalise the company temporarily and rumours circulated that Rusal was talking to Chinese buyers, Nugent said. TECHNICALS: LME aluminium is expected to test support at $2,348 a tonne, a break below which could cause a loss to the next support at $2,260, said Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao. POSITIONING: Funds were expanding bets on higher prices, Commerzbank analysts said. “Last week already saw net long positions in aluminium and nickel on the LME increased by 32 percent and 41 percent respectively, and this week they are likely to have been further expanded,” they said. STOCKS: On-warrant stocks of aluminium available to the market in LME-registered warehouses fell to 939,750 tonnes, down about a fifth since Feb. 22 and signalling tighter supply. NICKEL: LME nickel was down 3.3 percent at $14,590 a tonne after touching a three-year high of $16,690 on Thursday. It was still up 4.7 percent this week. OTHER METALS: Copper was flat at $6,985 a tonne, zinc rose 0.6 percent to $3,243.50, lead gained 0.9 percent to $2,358 and tin was up 0.3 percent at $21,510.