LONDON - Copper prices ticked higher on Thursday as the prospect of lockdowns being lifted in top metals consumer China buoyed sentiment despite worries about weaker global growth.

Benchmark three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) rose 0.4% to $9,273 a tonne in official open-outcry trading after dropping 1.4% in the previous session.

More Shanghai residents were given the freedom to go out to shop for groceries for the first time in nearly two months on Thursday as authorities set out further plans for exiting the city-wide COVID-19 lockdown.

Stock markets slumped on Thursday on concern about an economic downturn, fuelled a day earlier by bleak results and outlooks from big U.S. retailers.

"The fact that copper is holding up today with the S&P 500 (index futures) down, points to some underlying strength," said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank in Copenhagen.

"That strength is fundamentally based, with signs of lockdowns being lifted in China and low inventories which aren't there to cope with a potential pick-up in demand."

The most-active June copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange ended daytime trading down 0.3% at 71,530 yuan ($10,576.04) a tonne.

Aggressive U.S. rate-hike bets, the ongoing lockdowns in China and a batch of poor economic readings from major nations has led to slowdown concerns and weighed on industrial metals.

Supporting metals was a slightly easier dollar index, making greenback-denominated metals less expensive for buyers using other currencies.

The global nickel market deficit deepened to 11,100 tonnes in March, compared with a shortfall a month earlier of 1,800 tonnes, data from the International Nickel Study Group showed on Wednesday.

(Additional reporting by Brijesh Patel in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Krishna Chandra Eluri)