Domestic fuel oil sales increased by 0.5 percent in December from a year before to reach 24.16 million kiloliters, marking the first year-on-year increase in 15 months, according to a report issued Wednesday by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

The increase reflects the growing demand for kerosene and other fuel oil for heating purposes due mainly to the cold weather in northern Japan, a MITI official said. Gasoline sales during the December period also hit a record high last year.

However, other fuel oils for industrial use such as electricity, petrochemistry and transportation declined in sales from the same period the previous year, the official said.

As for crude oil imports, volume slipped 8.6 percent in December from a year before to reach 22.68 million kiloliters, marking five straight months of decline, according to the report. The official said Japan still relies heavily on oil imports from the Middle East, with 86.1 percent of the crude oil coming from the region as of December.

Annually, Japan imported a total 254.8 million kiloliters of crude oil last year, down by 6.2 percent from the year before, the report notes.

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