* Steel traders seen restocking ahead of Lunar New Year
* Rio Tinto calls force majeure on some iron ore shipments
* Coking coal, coke up amid supply-related concerns
* China’s 2018 iron ore imports fall 1 pct (Adds details, Rio Tinto statement, and updates closing prices)
By Enrico Dela Cruz
MANILA, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Chinese steel futures rose on Monday, with rebar at a two-month peak as traders rebuilt stocks, while iron ore edged higher after Rio Tinto said it has declared force majeure on some shipments after a fire hit its export terminal in Australia.
Iron ore’s rise also came after trade data released on Monday showed China’s 2018 iron ore imports fell by 1 percent from the previous year, the first annual decline since 2010.
Other steel-making ingredients extended gains as supply-related concerns persist, with coking coal touching a four-week high following a deadly coal mine collapse in northwest China’s Shaanxi province on Saturday.
Benchmark construction steel rebar prices on the Shanghai Futures Exchange gained 1.6 percent to 3,575 yuan ($528.44) a tonne, their biggest in nearly six weeks - just below the day’s high of 3,576 yuan.
Hot rolled coil climbed 1.1 percent to 3,459 yuan.
“Our steel inventory analytics model (indicates that) steel traders are starting to build up inventory of their position ahead of Chinese New Year (next month),” said Darren Toh, a data scientist with Singapore-based steel and iron ore data analytics company Tivlon Technologies.
Market sentiment remained upbeat despite data showing China’s exports unexpectedly fell the most in two years in December, while imports also contracted, pointing to further weakness in the world’s second-largest economy.
Investors were still upbeat about prospects for steel demand following the recent approval by the Chinese government of several infrastructure projects, Toh said.
The most traded iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange edged up nearly 1 percent to 513 yuan a tonne.
Rio Tinto said on Monday it has declared force majeure on iron ore shipments to some customers following a fire at its Cape Lambert export terminal in Australia last week.
Although China’s 2018 iron ore imports dropped 1 percent from the previous year, the volume still exceeded 1 billion tonnes for a third year running.
The most traded Dalian coking coal futures jumped as much as 3.7 percent before paring gains to close 2.8 percent higher at 1,245 yuan a tonne, following a deadly coal mine collapse in China’s Shaanxi province on Saturday.
Coking coal also stretched last Friday’s gains made after China’s National Coal Mine Safety Administration had notified some miners in major coal hubs of Shandong, Henan and northeastern regions to halt operation for inspections that will last until June.
Coke jumped 3.1 percent to 2,015 yuan.
$1 = 6.7652 yuan Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Richard Pullin and Sherry Jacob-Phillips