* Dalian coking coal rises as much as 1.5% as mine output slows
* Benchmark iron ore futures fall over 1% at close
* Chinese coal imports for Dec. likely to slump from Nov (Recasts; Updates with closing prices)
SHANGHAI, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Coking coal futures in China gained as much as 1.5% on Thursday, hitting their highest in nearly four months, as coal mines gradually suspend production ahead of the country’s Lunar New Year holidays and as imports plunged in December.
The most actively traded coking coal futures on the Dalian Commodity Exchange for May delivery closed 1.2% firmer at 1224.5 yuan ($177.72) per tonne, the highest since Sept. 23, 2019.
“As the Spring Festival nears, local and state-owned coal mines are gradually suspending production and going on holiday, and the supply of coking coal in production areas have decreased,” said Huatai Futures in a note.
Meanwhile, recent trade data also aggravated supply concerns of the steelmaking ingredient. China’s coal imports in December slumped to 2.77 million tonnes, accounting for merely 13% of the 20.78 million tonnes in November, data from the customs showed on Tuesday.
Iron ore futures, however, slid after top steel-producing city Tangshan issued a fresh smog alert.
Dalian’s benchmark iron ore contract, with May expiry, closed down 1.2% at 658.5 yuan per tonne.
“As restocking ahead of the Spring Festival enters its tail-end, steel mills have sufficient inventories ... Buying interest is poor,” added Huatai Futures’ note regarding iron ore.
Dalian coke futures inched up 0.05% to 1,858 yuan per tonne.
* Spot prices of the benchmark 62% iron-content ore, as tracked by SteelHome consultancy SH-CCN-IRNOR62, held steady at 96.5$ per tonne on Wednesday, unchanged from its previous session but still hovering around a near four-month high.
* The Shanghai Futures Exchange’s most-traded steel rebar contract rose 0.25% to 3,565 yuan per tonne.
* Hot-rolled steel coil, used in cars and home appliances, edged down 0.06% to 3,591 yuan per tonne.
* Shanghai stainless steel futures, for February delivery, rose 0.6% to 14,205 yuan per tonne.
* The United States and China agreed to roll back some tariffs and boost Chinese purchases of U.S. products, defusing an 18-month row between the two sides, but leaving a number of sore spots unresolved.
* China’s banks extended 1.14 trillion yuan in new yuan loans in December, down slightly from November and falling short of analysts’ expectations.
* China’s new home prices grew at their weakest pace in 17 months in December, with broader curbs on the sector continuing to cool the market in a further blow to the sputtering economy.
* India is planning to cut some imports from Turkey and widen curbs on palm oil from Malaysia to oil, gas and other products, government officials said, targeting the two Muslim-majority countries for their criticism of India’s policy towards Kashmir.
$1 = 6.8901 Chinese yuan Reporting by Emily Chow and Min Zhang; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Sherry Jacob-Phillips