METALS-China imports help fuel copper's ascent to four-year high

* LME/ShFE arb: http://bit.ly/2wZSAEz

* China's November copper imports jump but still down Jan-Nov

* Aluminum prices hit eight-week high (Adds closing prices)

LONDON, Dec 27 (Reuters) - Copper prices soared to four-year peaks on Wednesday after a jump in China's imports of the metal in November boosted expectations of stronger demand from the top consumer.

Traders said copper's rally accelerated after New York opened, with United States-based funds leaping on the uptrend.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange ended up 1.6 percent at $7,239 a tonne, having touched $7,259, its highest since January 2014. Prices of the metal used widely in power and construction are up 30 percent in the year to date.

"China's trade data lit the fire under copper. Sentiment is very bullish," one copper trader said, adding that if volumes tail away there could be some volatility.

IMPORTS: China's copper imports rose to 329,168 tonnes in November, up 19 percent year on year. Over the first 11 months of 2017, however, copper imports of 2.915 million tonnes are down more than 10 percent from the same period in 2016.

JIANGXI: Traders said a media report, later denied, that China's top copper producer, state-owned Jiangxi Copper, had stopped production also supported prices this week.

SMELTER: Pan Pacific Copper, Japan's biggest copper smelter, expects copper prices to rise by more than a quarter over the next two years as global demand grows and outpaces supply.

ALUMINIUM: Prices rose 2.7 percent to $2,252 a tonne from an earlier $2,254, their highest since March 2012.

CAPACITY AND INVENTORIES: Bullish sentiment in the aluminum market was reinforced by news that China's government has criticized officials in the industrialized province of Shandong for deceiving authorities to evade capacity cuts in the polluting coal, steel, aluminum and chemicals sectors.

However, aluminum stocks in warehouses <AL-STX-SGH> monitored by the Shanghai Futures Exchange, at a record 741,324 tonnes, suggest surpluses in China, the world's largest producer and consumer of the metal.

OTHER METALS: Zinc gained 0.2 percent to $3,272 a tonne, lead added 2 percent to $2,539, tin was up 0.8 percent at $19,695 and nickel slid 0.2 percent to $12,110.

NICKEL: Prices are under pressure from rising ore exports from Indonesia, which is gradually lifting a ban on raw material shipments, imposed in early 2014. Latest data shows Indonesia's nickel ore exports at about 3.1 million tonnes in November.

(Editing by Louise Heavens and David Evans)