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BEIJING, Feb 10 (Reuters) - China's coal imports jumped 64 percent in January from a year earlier to one of the highest in years, but fell on the month as economic activity slowed ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, official customs data showed on Friday.
Imports COA-IMP-TOT totaled 24.91 million tonnes in January, the highest for the first month of the year since 2014, figures from the General Administration of Customs of China showed.
The sharp year-on-year rise reflected the sustained pick-up in buying for lower priced foreign coal, used by utilities, over the past year after the government cracked down on domestic mining.
Analysts still expect coal imports to pick up in coming months as China is poised to close more mining capacity in 2017 as part of its ongoing campaign to shift to clean energy.
Rising prices in the steel market should also be supportive for coal, ANZ research said in a note.
"As in the iron ore market, rising margins in the Chinese steel market has helped support coking coal. After staying in negative territory for most of the past two years, margins have moved into positive territory in recent months," ANZ research said.
The figures include lignite, a type of coal with lower heating value that is largely supplied by Indonesia.
For more details, click on (Reporting by Meng Meng and Josephine Mason; Editing by Richard Pullin)