London - Copper was little changed on Monday after posting near 1 percent gains last week, helped by upbeat trade data from top consumer China and cautious optimism that the world's markets can cope with a gradual withdrawal of US stimulus.

China's imports of copper rose 7.1 percent to 435,613 tonnes in November from 406,708 tonnes in the previous month, while the country's exports handily beat forecasts in November, adding to recent evidence of economic stabilisation.

China consumes around 40 percent of the world's copper.

In the US meanwhile, a solid jobs report on Friday may have brought forward the day when the Federal Reserve starts tapering its asset buying, though markets have taken the view the economy is recovering well enough to withstand the move.

“Copper is trading at top of its range since mid-November, its reluctant to break through but I think it will - the data backdrop has been positive, the forward curve suggests tightness, warehouse stocks are trending lower, everything is aligned for it to have a go on the upside,” said Societe Generale analyst Jesper Dannesboe.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange had slipped 0.13 percent to $7,113 a tonne by 13:26 SA time, after hitting a near one month high of $7,140.50 a tonne on Friday.

All other base metals save for nickel hit multi-week highs.

Copper has been trading in a range of $6,602-$7,420 a tonne since June, and is looking to record falls of nearly 10 percent this year.

The US Federal Reserve will host its key policy meeting next week, with the central bank having had considerable success to date convincing investors that tapering is not tightening, and that interest rates will remain low for a long time to come.

“There is a growing perception that tapering is no longer the end of the recovery,” said Natixis analyst Nic Brown.

“We see $7,600 a tonne as a reasonable target in the very short-term. There is a high probability of a real physical shortage ... before we get to this panacea of abundant new mine supply at some time next year.”

Investors meanwhile remain bearish on copper, but have started to close out positions ahead of the year-end.

Hedge funds and money managers trimmed the market's short position in copper by 422 contracts to a net short of 19,316, data by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed on Friday.

In other metals, refined tin shipments from top exporter Indonesia rose to 5,192.86 tonnes in November, up 28 percent from 4,069.77 tonnes in October, a trade ministry official said on Monday.

Tin traded up 0.28 percent to $23,215 a tonne, having hit its highest since late October earlier, while aluminium rose 0.67 percent at $1,791 a tonne, having earlier hit a two-week high.

Zinc rose 0.84 percent at $1,921 a tonne, having earlier hit its highest since early November, while lead rose 0.66 percent to $2,107.50 a tonne, having earlier reached its highest in around two weeks. - Reuters