China's crude oil imports increased 3.5% to hit a new monthly high in January, the Wall Street Journal reported. A total of 13.69 million metric tons of crude oil was imported last month, equivalent to 3.24 million barrels a day. Crude exports fell 31% from a year earlier to 300,000 tons in January. Imports are expected to slow during the Lunar New Year period and rising international oil prices could dampen trade. New York crude oil futures were trading below $60 a barrel last month, allowing Chinese refineries to build their inventories as a hedge against rising prices.