South Korea's crude oil imports fell 3.7% on year in November, marking the first decline in more than a year.
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The country imported 79.9 million barrels of crude oil in November, down from 83 million barrels a year earlier, preliminary data from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy showed Tuesday.
The November volume was down 4.8% from the 83.9 million barrels imported in October, the MOTIE data showed.
While preliminary data from the MOTIE had shown crude imports dipped 0.9% on year in September, the final imports data released by the Korea National Oil Corp. showed that September crude imports had risen 2%.
As such, November imports recorded the first year-on-year decline in South Korea's monthly crude imports since October last year.
The cost of South Korea's imports fell 45.1% on year to $3.78 billion in November, from $6.89 billion a year earlier, and was also down from $3.93 billion in October, according to the MOTIE data.
The country paid an average $47.40/b in November, down from $83/b a year earlier, but up from $46.80/b in October.
The country's crude imports had been on the rise since August last year when international crude prices showed significant declines.
South Korea's crude imports for the first 11 months of the year were estimated at 926.1 million barrels, up 9.4% from 846.7 million barrels a year earlier, according to calculations based on data from state-run Korea National Oil Corp.
An MOTIE official attributed the decline in November imports to rising crude oil stocks following local refiners' buying spree over the past year.
The country's commercial crude oil stocks rose 2.4% on year to 30.61 million barrels in October from 29.89 million barrels a year earlier. Data on crude oil stocks for November was not available yet.
The country's commercial crude oil stocks, which averaged at 19.09 million barrels in 2013 and 25.49 million barrels in 2014, jumped to record 35.79 million barrels in May and has remained high despite higher crude runs.
Combined stocks of oil products at local refineries hit a record 62.26 million barrels in July, then declined to 56.77 million barrels in October due to strong exports and firm local demand.
South Korean refineries processed 841.64 million barrels of crude over January-October, up 11.3% from 756.25 million barrels processed in the same period last year.
South Korea's final oil trade data for November will be released late this month by KNOC.
--Charles Lee, firstname.lastname@example.org
--Edited by Haripriya Banerjee, email@example.com