* March crude stocks up 2 pct mth/mth, 2nd rise since Sept
* Fuel inventories down 3.6 pct mth/mth, 1st fall in 5 mths
* Gasoline stocks down 0.6 pct, diesel down 4.9 pct (Adds details, background)
BEIJING, April 20 (Reuters) - China crude oil stockpiles climbed 2 percent higher in March than a month earlier, with oil firms thought to be restocking following a steady decline in inventories since the fourth quarter of last year.
The restocking has helped push oil imports their third-highest level on record in March, while crude processing slipped after strong runs in February. .
It marks only the second time crude inventories held by refiners including China Petroleum and Chemical Corp (Sinopec Corp) have gained since September, according to China Oil, Gas and Petrochemicals, a Xinhua newsletter.
They rose 1.2 percent rise in January but fell 3.8 percent in February.
The newsletter does not provide outright inventory volumes, and the government seldom discloses either commercial or strategic oil stock levels, making it harder to gauge real demand by the world’s second largest oil importer.
Inventories of refined oil products at the end of last month fell 3.6 percent compared with a month earlier, it said, marking the first decline in five months.
The change in fuel stocks mirrored a report from the National Development and Reform Commission on Thursday which said fuel inventories in the world’s second largest consuming market declined slightly last month.
Stocks of gasoline at the end of March dipped 0.6 percent from a month earlier, diesel stocks fell 4.9 percent and kerosene inventories slid 5.1 percent, the newsletter said.
Based on earlier figures from Xinhua, the percentage changes indicate gasoline stocks at the end of March stood at about 6.7 million tonnes, diesel stocks at about 11.9 million tonnes and kerosene stocks at about 1.5 million tonnes. (Reporting by Jim Bai, Judy Hua and Fayen Wong; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)