May 11, 2009 / 5:08 AM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 1-China Apr crude imports near record high - source

3 Min Read

* April crude import second record high on daily bases

* April saw the first positive yearly growth this year

* High import prepare oil majors to rev up production

By Eadie Chen and Tom Miles

BEIJING, May 11 (Reuters) - China's April crude oil imports saw the first monthly increase of the year and hit the second-highest record on a daily basis, providing more evidence that oil demand in the world's No.2 energy user is picking up.

China imported 16.17 million tonnes (3.93 million barrels per day) of crude oil in April, up 13.6 percent from a year earlier, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters on Monday.

If confirmed, the daily rate would surpass last month's 3.85 million bpd and comes next only to a record import level of 4.07 million bpd in March 2008 when Beijing drummed up for the Beijing Olympics and would also be the first positive yearly growth this year.

(for a historic graphic of China's crude oil imports, please click: here)

"Even though crude imports in January and February were comparatively small, they are now rebounding very quickly," said Qiu Xiaofeng, an analyst at Merchant Securities in Shanghai.

"Industrial production and fixed-asset investment are picking up quickly thanks to the massive economic stimulus package."

Car sales were shooting up and China's car sale tax cuts would prompt more Chinese to buy cars, which would greatly increase China's oil demand, he said. The high imports will prompt state oil majors to boost production after they stepped up sales at home and abroad and curbed production to drain record refined fuel stocks in the past several months.

Refined fuel inventories held by China's top two oil companies fell 15 percent at the end of April from a month earlier while sales rose more than 5 percent versus March, an industry official told Reuters on Friday. [IN:nSP5291]

The stockdraw at oil majors is also partly a result of stockpiling by wholesalers on hopes that the government will raise domestic fuel prices to bring them more in line with global levels.

An expected fuel price increase did not materialise last week as China's economic planning body for the first time explained its pricing regime and reaffirmed that it would not hand price controls to the market. [ID:nPEK55684]

China has approved a plan to set up 10 million tonnes of state refined fuel reserves by 2011, its first official programme to establish sizable emergency fuel stockpiles in addition to crude, an official familiar with the plan told Reuters last Wednesday. [ID:nPKE 211016] (Reporting by Tom Miles, Eadie Chen and Jim Bai; Editing by Chris Lewis) (eadie.chen@reuters.com; +8610 6627 1268; Reuters Messaging: eadie.chen.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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