(Adds milestone, details)
* July imports 5.14 mln bpd; +12 pct on yr, -3 pct on mth
* July imports at 9-mth low due to refinery run curb
* Jan-July imports +10.2 pct on yr, around 5.55 mln bpd
BEIJING, Aug 10 (Reuters) - China’s crude oil imports in July rose 12 percent from a year earlier but were the lowest since last November, as the country capped refinery production at the second-lowest level this year amid weak demand for fuel.
China, the world’s second-largest user of oil, imported 21.83 million tonnes of crude oil last month, or about 5.14 million barrels per day (bpd), data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Friday.
That compared with 4.58 mln bpd in July 2011, which was a low base at the time, and 5.29 million bpd in June. Imports hit an all-time high at 6 million bpd in May.
For the first seven months, the world’s second-largest crude buyer imported 10.2 percent more than a year ago, at 161.9 million tonnes, or about 5.55 million bpd, the data showed.
The growth in crude imports outpaced growth in China’s refinery crude throughput, indicating some of the imported barrels have ended up in storage.
Imports have been curbed in the last couple of months as refineries sank deeper into the red, processing pricey crude oil bought earlier at a higher cost and forced to sell at state-set pump rates that were cut three times between May and July.
China raised retail prices on Friday by 4-5 percent to track the climbing cost of crude.
“We were tempted to buy a bit more when global prices fell in May and June, but were told to hold off or even resell cargoes already bought as refineries were cutting runs,” said a crude trader with a state refiner.
“Now prices are heading up and refineries may turn to raise production. There was for sure some disconnect between domestic refinery operations and China’s crude purchasing,” the trader said. (Reporting by Chen Aizhu and Judy Hua; Editing by Richard Pullin)