Crude imports in June by China, the world’s second-biggest oil consumer, fell to the lowest level this year as the country’s refineries cut their utilization rates amid an economic slowdown.
China bought 21.6 million metric tons, or 5.28 million barrels a day, more than it exported last month, according to data released on the website of the Beijing-based General Administration of Customs today. That’s the least since net imports of 5.1 million barrels a day in December and compares with a record high of 5.98 million barrels a day in May, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The country’s biggest refineries, accounting for almost three-quarters of nationwide capacity, cut their operating rates to 81.5 percent of the maximum in mid-June compared with 86.3 percent at the end of May, according to Oilchem.net, an industry website in Shandong province. China is expected to report on July 13 that economic growth fell to 7.7 percent in the second quarter, the slowest pace in more than three years, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists.
The nation reduced oil purchases even as the average monthly price of Brent oil slid below $100 a barrel in June for the first time since January 2011. China’s net imports in the first six months averaged 5.59 million barrels a day compared with 5.06 million a year earlier, according to Bloomberg calculations from customs data.
China built up the biggest surplus of crude in the first five months of this year since the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The oil was probably stored in commercial and emergency stockpiles, the International Energy Agency said in a June 13 report.
Crude imports were 21.72 million tons in June while exports were 110,000 tons. The overseas purchases cost an average $111 a barrel compared with $120 in May, Bloomberg calculations from the customs data showed.
Imports of fuel including gasoline and diesel were 2.93 million tons while outbound shipments were 2.07 million in June, according to the report.
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