SYDNEY, Dec 27 (Reuters) – London copper was back with a roar after the Christmas break, rising by $77 a tonne to its highest in nearly three-and-a-half years, on expectations of stronger demand from top consumer China in 2018. Chinese copper futures followed, albeit modestly, pulling most Shanghai Futures Exchange base metals contracts higher in the process. Chinese customs data released on Tuesday showed that the country’s refined copper imports leapt 19 percent in November from a year earlier. FUNDAMENTALS: * Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange had jumped 1 percent to $7,201 a tonne by 0100 GMT, the highest since July 2014, according to Reuters data. The LME was closed on Monday and Tuesday for the Christmas and Boxing Day holidays. * The most-traded copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange was up 0.42 percent at 55,100 yuan ($8,421.34) a tonne shortly after the open. Copper prices are up by almost a third this year on a positive outlook for the global economy. Miners have also faced higher development costs due to lower copper content in ores, the far-flung locations of mines and tighter environmental regulations. * COPPER: Pan Pacific Copper (PPC), Japan’s biggest copper smelter, expects copper prices to rise more than a quarter over the next two years as global demand continues to grow and outpaces supply, its senior executive said on Monday. * FAKE DATA: Local officials in China’s northern Shandong province have used fake data to help aluminium and steel producers avoid mandatory production curbs, the state-run China Youth Daily reported, citing a Ministry of Environmental Protection inspection team. * SANCTIONS BITE: China exported no oil products to North Korea in November, Chinese customs data showed, apparently going above and beyond sanctions imposed earlier this year by the United Nations in a bid to limit petroleum shipments to the isolated country.

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