(Updates with official customs numbers for May imports, adds background)
BEIJING, June 10 (Reuters) - China’s May coal imports rose 8.6% from the month before to 27.47 million tonnes, customs data showed on Monday, the highest level since January as power utilities boosted purchases ahead of summer.
Weak demand from Europe and ample supplies also pushed global coal prices lower just before China’s peak demand season, encouraging large purchases last month, said traders.
The May shipments were the highest since January’s 33.5 million tonnes.
Lower prices also helped push May imports up 23% from the same month last year, showed the data published by the General Administration of Customs.
Imports for the first five months of 2019 came to 127 million tonnes, up 5.6% on the prior year.
The price of year-ahead API2 thermal coal futures , a commonly used global benchmark, hit a two-year low of $65.25 per tonne on May 31, more than a third down from the highest levels hit in 2018.
The robust buying has also led to high inventory levels.
Coal stockpiles at China’s six largest coastal coal-fired power plants reached 17.9 million tonnes, equivalent to nearly 33 days of daily consumption and hovering near a five-month high, data from the Qinghuangdao Seaborne Coal Market showed.
Reporting by Meng Meng and Dominique Patton; Editing by Joseph Radford and Richard Pullin