* Dalian coke futures rise for sixth straight session
* Expectations Chinese mills would restock after holiday
* China Jan iron ore imports second highest on record
By Ruby Lian and Manolo Serapio Jr
SHANGHAI/MANILA, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Chinese coke futures rose for a sixth straight session on Thursday, trading near their strongest level in more than seven weeks, over optimism that steel mills will replenish stockpiles of the raw material after the Lunar New Year holiday.
Steel producers and coke plants in 28 Chinese cities were ordered to slash production since mid-November as Beijing fights smog, while production in other regions had slowed ahead of the week-long Chinese New Year that starts next Thursday.
“With physical coke prices having fallen to production cost level and mills’ inventories low, we are positive on coke prices after the holiday as mills would replenish stocks to prepare for restarts,” said Zhao Chaoyue, a Merchant Futures analyst in Shenzhen.
The most-actively traded coke contract for May delivery on the Dalian Commodity Exchange was up 0.5 percent at 2,148.50 yuan ($339) a tonne by the midday break.
It had touched an intraday peak of 2,160 yuan earlier, near Wednesday’s high of 2,167.50 yuan, the strongest since Dec. 18.
Iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange was little changed at 522.50 yuan per tonne.
China’s iron ore imports reached 100 million tonnes in January, the second highest level on record, as steel mills in the top global buyer built inventories before the coming holiday and the lifting of steel output curbs next month.
Iron ore for delivery to China’s Qingdao port .IO62-CNO=MB climbed 1.7 percent to $77.20 a tonne on Wednesday, the highest since Jan. 12, according to Metal Bulletin.
On Thursday, the most-traded rebar on the Shanghai Futures Exchange slipped 0.2 percent to 3,937 yuan a tonne.
China said on Wednesday it aims to meet its target for reducing steel production capacity two years earlier than planned, ramping up a years-long push to reduce excess output.
The original plan called for reducing 150 million tonnes of steel production capacity by 2020.
China shut down 115 million tonnes of steel capacity between 2016 and 2017, and closed 140 million tonnes of induction furnaces that use scrap metal to make steel.
($1 = 6.3400 Chinese yuan)
Reporting by Ruby Lian in SHANGHAI and Manolo Serapio Jr in MANILA; Editing by Tom Hogue