METALS-Rising Chinese imports push industrial metals higher

* LME/ShFE arb: http://bit.ly/2wZSAEz (Updates throughout, moves dateline from MELBOURNE)

LONDON, Feb 26 (Reuters) - The price of copper and other industrial metals rose on Monday, helped by a weaker dollar and demand expectations cemented by higher imports to China, the world's biggest metals consumer.

Rising global stock markets also fuelled appetite for riskier assets including metals, said Societe Generale analyst Robin Bhar.

"Both macro and micro factors are good," he said.

COPPER: Benchmark three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange was up 0.6 percent at $7,139.50 a tonne by 1217 GMT, near a four-year high of $7,312.50 touched in January.

CHINA IMPORTS: Copper imports to China rose 13 percent from December to 314,525 tonnes in January, while refined nickel imports doubled to 26,691 tonnes and refined zinc imports surged by 287 percent to 67,111 tonnes.

CHINA SCRAP: Imports of scrap metal, meanwhile, fell to the lowest level in nearly two years in January after restrictions were introduced. Scrap copper imports were down 28 percent year on year.

Prices of the metal used in power and construction surged last year on expectations that lower scrap imports to China would increase demand for refined metal.

CHINA ECONOMY: Robust economic data reinforced expectations of strong demand for metals. Prices for new homes rose in January and a poll showed that China's manufacturing sector is expected to register another month of relatively solid growth in February.

POSITIONING: Bets on higher copper prices increased on the COMEX exchange, with funds' net long position rising for the first time this year in the week to Feb. 20.

DOLLAR: The dollar is near three-year lows against a basket of major currencies, supporting dollar-denominated metals by making them cheaper for users of other currencies.

ALUMINIUM: LME aluminium was up 1.1 percent at $2,163.50 a tonne, close to a six-year high of $2,290.50 in January, helped by a large warrant cancellation that reduced availability of metal in LME-registered warehouses. <MALSTX-TOTAL>

SUPPLY: Broader aluminium supply looked strong, however. Global primary production rose in January, according to the International Aluminium Institute. There was also an increase in exports of semi-processed aluminium products from China, the world's largest producer. And in the United States a smelter was poised to restart idled production if Washington curbs imports.

OUTLOOK: "With no apparent shortage of supply, we expect prices to ease back in 2018," Capital Economics analyst Simona Gambarini said in a note.

OTHER METALS: LME zinc was up 1.2 percent at $3,544 a tonne, nickel rose 1.4 percent to $13,965, lead gained 1.9 percent to $2,581 and tin was flat at $21,650.

(Additional reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by David Goodman)