China's Oil Import Rise As Auto Sales Increase

China's crude oil imports rose 25.3% in the first quarter of the year as vehicle sales also soared, official statistics showed April 12, putting further pressure on world oil prices.

Crude imports for the world's second biggest oil consumer in the first three months of 2006 were 37.13 million tons, the General Administration of Customs said in a statement. The figure for March was 12.73 million tons.

China has over the past few years been seeking to rapidly expand its global sources of crude, looking to the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia and Russia, to fuel rapid economic development.

The announcement of China's import figures came after the nation's auto industry reported a record 1.73 million vehicles had been sold in the first quarter of this year, a 36.9 rise over the same period in 2005. A surge in car sales -- up 67% percent year-on-year to 855,300 in the first three months -- was the main factor behind the rise, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said.

"Vehicle sales growth has been dramatic compared to last year. This suggests that the future demand for oil products will remain strong," Victor Shum, a Singapore-based analyst with energy consultancy firm Purvin and Gertz Shum said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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