BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s crude oil imports fell 20 percent in January from record high volumes the previous month to their lowest level since October, official customs data showed on Monday.
January crude oil imports were also down 4.6 percent on a year earlier at 26.69 million tonnes, or 6.29 million barrels per day.
China’s imports reached a record 7.81 million bpd in December to close out 2015 with an average 6.71 million bpd - a figure well above China’s still growing demand for oil.
China took advantage of low global oil prices last year to add up to 185 million barrels to its reserves, Reuters calculations show, while oil demand - refinery throughput plus net imports of oil products - grew 3.1 percent.
In January, fuel exports rose 45.2 percent to 3.01 million tonnes, or 679,700 bpd, after hitting a record 975,500 bpd in December, as China continued to export more diesel amid weakening demand for the industrial fuel.
Diesel exports in the first quarter of 2016 may high a record high for that period, flooding Asia with supply at a time when profit margins are close to six-year lows, industry sources have said.
Net fuel exports were 350,000 tonnes in January.
A further breakdown of the data will be available later in the month.
Reporting By Adam Rose; Editing by Richard Pullin