March 23, 2017 / 8:19 AM / in 6 months

UPDATE 1-Saudi shipments to China up 5 pct in Feb vs Jan, remains top oil supplier

* Saudi Feb imports 1.24 mln bpd vs 1.18 mln bpd in Jan

* Russia Feb imports 1.12 mln bpd vs 1.08 mln bpd in Jan

* Imports from Brazil nearly tripled on year to 405,930 bpd (Adds Iraq, Iran and Brazil, details)

By Chen Aizhu

BEIJING, March 23 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia maintained its spot as China’s top oil supplier in February, two months into the first OPEC output cuts in almost a decade, with shipments up 5 percent on a daily basis from January, data showed on Thursday.

China imported in February 4.77 million tonnes of crude oil from Saudi Arabia, about 1.24 million barrels per day (bpd), according to data from the Chinese General Administration of Customs.

That was up from 1.18 million bpd the previous month. China’s imports from Saudi Arabia, however, fell 12.9 percent from a year earlier.

Russia was China’s second-biggest supplier with shipments of 4.29 million tonnes, or 1.12 million bpd, a gain of 4.5 percent on a year earlier and up 3.7 percent from January’s level of 1.08 million bpd.

Angola ranked third with supplies falling about 32 percent from a year ago to a daily rate of just under 850,000 bpd, the data showed.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to curb its output by about 1.2 million bpd from Jan. 1 for six months, the first reduction in eight years. Russia and other non-OPEC producers agreed to cut half as much.

OPEC oil producers also increasingly favour extending beyond June the pact on reducing crude supply to balance the market, according to sources within the group.

The deal between OPEC and non-OPEC producers to reduce a combined 1.8 million bpd in ouput supply helped to keep global oil prices around $55 over the first two months of the year, but inventories in industrial nations are rising and the higher prices have encouraged U.S. firms to pump more.

Brent benchmark crude futures were holding at less than $51 a barrel on Thursday, after briefly dipping below $50 on Wednesday for the first time since November.

Production in the U.S. rose more than 8 percent since mid-2016 to more than 9.13 million bpd to levels comparable in late 2014, when the oil market slump started.

Imports from Iraq and Iran both climbed last month from rates a year ago, with arrivals from Iraq up 12 percent at 788,830 bpd and Iran up 18 percent at 657,900 bpd.

Strong demand from China’s independent refineries and an open arbitrage bolstered supplies from Brazil, with imports nearly tripling in February from a year ago to around 405,930 bpd.

China’s total crude oil imports in February hit the second-highest level on record on a daily basis at 8.29 million bpd.

tonne=7.3 barrels for crude conversion Reporting by Chen Aizhu; Editing by Tom Hogue

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