China oil demand growth set to miss forecasts in 2013

Chinese oil demand this year is virtually certain to miss forecasts by the International Energy Agency, or IEA, and the country’s top producer.

By Clyde Russell (Reuters)

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Published: Sun 15 Dec 2013, 9:38 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 5:20 PM

Implied crude demand fell 5.1 per cent to about 9.94 million barrels per day in November from the same month a year earlier, but was 1.5 per cent higher than in October and was also the most in five months.

However, the November figures take implied demand for the first 11 months of the year to about 9.76 million bpd, a gain of only 2.1 per cent over the same period in 2012.

This is substantially below the IEA’s forecast for total demand of 10.19 million bpd in 2013 contained in the agency’s monthly report published on December 11.

It is also below the 10.28 million bpd forecast in January by top state oil company China National Petroleum Corp, or CNPC.

Implied demand is calculated by adding net fuel imports to refinery throughput, but excludes changes in commercial and strategic inventories. Inventories changes in volume terms aren’t disclosed by the authorities, although percentage changes for commercial stockpiles are reported monthly.

These have been declining in recent months, with refined product inventories dropping 6.08 per cent in October from September, the fourth monthly decline. Commercial crude inventories also declined 1.84 per cent in October from a month earlier, but they had risen 10 per cent over the prior two months.

But even if inventories are falling, they aren’t declining by enough to explain the difference between the implied demand and the forecasts by the IEA and CNPC. It appears that demand growth in China has failed to live up to expectations, most likely because of weaker-than-expected economic growth in the middle of the year, the gradual shift to a more consumer-led economy and improving efficiencies.

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