BEIJING, Feb 15 (Reuters) - London copper prices slipped on
Friday after China's factory-gate price growth missed
expectations and as investors awaited the outcome of Sino-U.S.
trade talks in Beijing.
    China's producer price inflation slowed for a seventh
straight month in January to its weakest pace since September
2016, raising concerns the world's top copper consumer may see
the return of deflation as domestic demand cools.
    Copper is on course for a 1.5 percent drop this week, which
would be its steepest weekly fall since the week ended Dec. 22.
    Key catalysts for a price rebound would be progress in the
trade talks and signs of economic recovery in China, Helen Lau,
an analyst at Argonaut Securities in Hong Kong, said in a note.
    China's January copper import numbers, released on Thursday,
reflected a "rather encouraging outlook in copper demand,
especially as inventory in the domestic market is winding down,"
she added. 
    
    FUNDAMENTALS
    * LME COPPER: Three-month copper on the London Metal
Exchange fell 0.3 percent to $6,118.50 a tonne, as of
0355 GMT, having climbed in the previous two sessions. The
most-traded April copper contract on the Shanghai Futures
Exchange was flat at 48,330 yuan ($7,132.42) a tonne.
    * TRADE: The top two U.S. negotiators in trade talks with
China will meet on Friday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but
there has been no decision to extend a March 1 U.S. deadline for
a deal, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said. 
    * VIBE: "The vibe in Beijing is good," Kudlow told Fox News
Channel but his upbeat assessment contrasted with reports from
two people familiar with the talks, who said progress has been
difficult on the thorniest issues.
    * NICKEL: The metal used to make stainless steel fell 0.6
percent in London and was on course to shed 3.5 percent
over the week, the most since November, as a rally driven by
fears Vale's tailings dam disaster in Brazil would affect its
nickel production faded. ShFE nickel lost 1.8 percent. 
  
    * NICKEL: Further easing supply fears, Australian
ferronickel miner South32 has agreed a four-year
contract with two unions at its Cerro Matoso mine in Colombia,
avoiding a strike over pay and other benefits.