(Adds analyst comment, detail)
* Nov crude imports 6.65 mln bpd, +7.6 pct on yr
* Jan-Nov crude imports 6.61 mln bpd, +8.7 pct on yr
* Nov fuel imports -21 pct on yr, exports +68 pct
By Chen Aizhu
BEIJING, Dec 8 (Reuters) - China’s November crude oil imports rose 7.6 percent from the same month a year ago, data showed on Tuesday, as state energy firms extended the strategy of maintaining strong buying on low crude prices and exporting surplus refined fuel.
China brought in 27.34 million tonnes, or 6.65 million barrels per day (bpd) last month, preliminary data from the General Administration of Customs showed, about 440,000 bpd or 7.1 percent above the October level.
For the first 11 months, China’s crude oil imports rose 8.7 percent to 302.3 million tonnes, or 6.61 million bpd, supported by strong demand for gasoline and aviation fuel even as demand for diesel eased in line with a cooling economy.
“The main trend is on track - as long as storage space allows, China will continue to seize low oil and build stocks,” said Barclays analyst Zhang Chi.
“The low oil (price) also helps refineries maintain relatively high operations to cover firm gasoline demand and then export surplus diesel which has been hit by the weaker economy.”
China, which imports roughly 60 percent of the crude oil it processes, has been taking advantage of oil prices that have more than halved from last year’s peak to fill strategic reserves.
The country could double strategic oil purchases next year as more tanks become available, according to a Reuters’ survey of analysts, challenging the United States as the world’s largest crude buyer.
The entry of new crude importers, independent refineries Beijing allowed in for the first time to boost private sector investment, also helped prop up crude shipments.
Reflecting a surge in net fuel exports, customs data showed China’s oil product imports fell 21 percent in November versus a year ago to 1.88 million tonnes, while exports jumped 68 percent year-on-year to 4.1 million tonnes.
China’s commercial crude oil stocks at the end of October fell 4.4 percent from the previous month in their biggest drop since at least 2010, and refined fuel also recorded a steep draw, the official Xinhua News Agency has reported, allowing for inventory replenishment.
tonne =7.3 barrels for crude oil conversion Reporting by Chen Aizhu; Editing by Joseph Radford