China's apparent oil demand in March increased 6.5% from a year earlier to 44.73 million metric tons (mt), or an average 10.58 MMbbl/d, making this the highest growth rate witnessed since September 2014.
According to Platts, China’s refinery throughput in March averaged 10.57 MMbbl/d, rising 5.5% from a year earlier, data from the country’s National Bureau of Statistics showed.
On the other hand, net oil product imports fell to a four-month low of 40,000 mt, a data released by the General Administration of Customs revealed.
During the first quarter of this year, China’s total apparent oil demand was up 4% year over year (YOY) to an average 10.48 MMbbl, the highest pace of growth over the same three-month period since 2012.
This came despite China’s GDP growth sinking to 7% for the quarter, the slowest quarterly rise in six years.
“Apparent oil demand appears to be strengthening against a low base from a year ago, even though the economic outlook remains bleak,” said Platts' senior writer for China, Song Yen Ling. “But there could be some support with continued loosening of credit controls by the government, which could boost infrastructure investment.”
Demand for gasoil – the most widely consumed oil product in China – rebounded from a contraction in February to grow 7.5% in March to 15.51 million mt. Actual consumption, however, was likely lower as there was some stock building during March.
Up to 70% of the fuel is used in the transport sector, while the remainder is used by various sectors, including construction, farming and fishing, industrial heating and to power machinery.
Demand for gasoil was up 4% over January to March to 43.62 million mt, in contrast to the contraction in the first quarter of 2014.Gasoline demand climbed 8% YOY to 9.56 million mt, with demand also rising 8% to 27.67 million mt, buoyed by higher passenger car sales.
Fuel oil witnessed a further decline in demand following consumption tax increases in the fourth quarter of last year, which has made fuel more expensive for the country’s independent teapot refiners to buy.
Apparent demand for fuel oil in March slumped 8.1% YOY to 2.88 million mt. Net fuel oil imports fell 4.2% during the month to 690,000 mt. Fuel oil demand during the first quarter tumbled 17.2% to just over 8 million mt.
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