NEW YORK/LONDON, March 29 (Reuters) - Copper maintained its bullish momentum in late trade on Monday with prices in New York and London stretching to their highest levels since August 2008 as a weaker dollar and improved demand prospects from declining inventory levels powered the advance.
Copper for May delivery HGK0 on the New York Mercantile Exchange's COMEX division surged 13.25 cents, or 3.9 percent, to settle at $3.5355 per lb -- the highest closing level for a third-position contract since late August 2008.
On the London Metal Exchange (LME), benchmark copper for three-months delivery CMCU3 closed at $7,770 a tonne from a close of $7,514 on Friday. After-hours, prices of the metal used in power and construction rose further to $7,800 per tonne,
another high going back to August 2008.
"The inventory numbers are starting to catch people's attention," said Justin Lennon, analyst with Mitsui Bussan Commodities (USA) Inc. Copper stocks fell 1,400 tonnes to 515,525 tonnes, their lowest level since early January, after falling throughout March. Stocks hit a 6-1/2 year high of 555,075 tonnes in mid-February.
A fifth straight month of increased U.S. consumer spending provided additional momentum to the rally, Mitsui's Lennon said.
"It feeds the comeback in consumption," he said. Nick Moore, global head of commodity strategy at RBS Global Banking & Markets, said the rally was more of a "risk-on" day, with a relief rally in the euro fueling that trade.
The dollar slipped against a basket of major currencies, and fell versus the euro after euro zone leaders agreed on a financial safety net for Greece late last week.
"There is a real potpourri of reasons today," he added. "From currencies through to end-quarter shenanigans, but the implications are that there will be tears before bedtime as producers look at this and make plans to reactivate capacity," Moore said.
Nickel CMNI3 ended at $24,000 from $23,600 after hitting a session high of $24,498, its highest since June 2008, and having rallied more than 27 percent so far this year.
Stocks of nickel rose 426 tonnes to 156,348 tonnes, their highest level since mid-2003.
Stratton Metals Ltd on Friday denied it was behind an unexpected rally in the price of nickel this year, after the Wall Street Journal said the privately held global commodity trading company based in London was seen as a main catalyst for the rally.
"Nickel has substantially outperformed the complex over the past month," Goldman Sachs said in a note.
"However, we maintain that the fundamental drivers for recent nickel tightness in particular are unlikely to be sustained beyond the near term. Specifically, we believe that the current nickel tightness may worsen in the coming weeks," the note said.
"We are therefore looking for an opportunity to short nickel, but believe the timing is a little too soon."
Aluminum CMAL3 ended at $2,283 from $2,220 and zinc CMZN3 was at $2,315 from $2,230.
Battery material lead CMPB3 closed at $2,151 from $2,125 and tin CMSN3 ended at $18,025 from $17,725. Tin earlier hit $18,200, its highest since mid-January.