* Minor acid leak reported at Vale’s Goro nickel operations
* LME tin inventories seen reaching 7,000 tonnes - Triland
* Coming up: U.S. weekly jobs data at 1230 GMT (Adds detail; updates prices)
By Melanie Burton
MELBOURNE, May 19 (Reuters) - London copper fell on Thursday to within a whisker of its weakest since February, pushed down by a stronger dollar after the U.S. Federal Reserve signalled a possible rate hike as soon as next month.
Fed officials felt the U.S. economy could be ready for another interest rate increase in June, according to minutes from the central bank’s April policy meeting.
The dollar struck its strongest since March against a basket of currencies during Asian trading on Thursday, making metals more expensive for buyers paying with other currencies.
“Macro policymakers are driving direction in the metals markets at the minute,” said analyst Daniel Morgan at UBS in Sydney.
“At the margin, you are going to see less support from China. Property data has been very strong but it’s likely to moderate from now to year-end, and seasonal factors will start to fade. You are potentially going to see some range-trading in the short to medium term.”
China officials said last week that it would hold back on strong stimulation of the economy, as a recovery in its ailing property sector takes root.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange had dropped 1 percent to $4,566.50 a tonne by 0726 GMT, extending 0.9-percent losses from the previous session when prices dipped to their weakest since Feb. 19 at $4,563.50 a tonne.
Shanghai Futures Exchange copper ended the session with 1.1-percent losses at 35,200 yuan ($5,381), but held above recent lows at 35,030 yuan a tonne.
In other metals, LME tin inventories are set to rise further, broker Triland said in a note, suggesting ample supply, despite low production by top tin exporter Indonesia.
“Producers (are) taking advantage of recent higher LME prices to offer material ... We heard of more deliveries in the weeks ahead, thus we could expect higher LME stocks near 7,000 tonnes before the delivery stops.”
LME tin stocks have nearly doubled since late February, climbing to 6-month peaks at 6,615 tonnes.
Indonesia’s tin smelters are operating at 21 percent of their annual nameplate capacity, an official said this week.
Japan’s core machinery orders rose 5.5 percent in March, but companies forecast a decline in investment in April-June, suggesting some are cautious about the business outlook.
Chinese state firms should cut excessive management, reduce costs and adopt market-based operations to improve their competitiveness, the country’s cabinet on Wednesday.
Three month LME copper
Most active ShFE copper
Three month LME aluminium
Most active ShFE aluminium
Three month LME zinc
Most active ShFE zinc
Three month LME lead
Most active ShFE lead
Three month LME nickel
Most active ShFE nickel
Three month LME tin
Most active ShFE tin
$1 = 6.5418 Chinese yuan renminbi Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Joseph Radford and Sherry Jacob-Phillips