* China was top crude importer again in June -Reuters calculations
* Strong demand driven by low prices -analyst
* Declining domestic output also buoying imports (Adds comment, detail)
BEIJING, July 13 (Reuters) - China imported 35.69 million tonnes, or 8.68 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil in June, up 16.6 percent from a year earlier, again making the country the world's top buyer for the month, according to Reuters calculations based on customs data.
Strong demand is being driven by low oil prices and growth in sports utility vehicle sales, said Neil Beveridge, a senior analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein in Hong Kong. Appetite for imports is also being stoked by declining domestic output.
Imports compared with average shipments to the United States in June of 7.94 million bpd, according to Reuters calculations based on weekly U.S. data.
For the first six months of 2017, China shipped in 212 million tonnes of crude, or 8.55 million barrels per day (bpd), up 13.8 percent on the same period in 2016, Chinese customs data showed on Thursday.
Imports had grown to the second highest on record in May, amid concerns over tightening crude supply in Asia as OPEC and other producers extended production cuts to March 2018.
But China's independent refiners - awash with crude and facing disappointing local demand - were set to slow purchases of oil for at least the next two months.
Imports of natural gas in the first six months of the year were up 15.9 percent at 31.09 million tonnes, while imports of refined oil products fell by 2.8 percent to 15.03 million tonnes in the first half of the year, the customs data showed. (Reporting by Cheng Fang, Dominique Patton and Tom Daly; Editing by Joseph Radford)