Japanese oil demand fell by 58 thousand b/d y/y to 3.17 mb/d in July, a relatively small drop by recent standards. In H1 18, demand was lower y/y by 0.12 mb/d. Warm weather in July (CDDs hit a 10-year high) boosted cooling demand for utility fuels—direct crude burn posted a rare annual gain of 12 thousand b/d while fuel oil’s decline slowed to 6 thousand b/d y/y. Demand data for other products were unremarkable, with gasoline demand down by 8 thousand b/d y/y despite the warm weather and diesel demand down by 14 thousand b/d y/y. While still in expansionary territory at 52.3 in July, the manufacturing PMI has been trending lower since January. LPG and naphtha demand fell by 16 thousand b/d and 36 thousand b/d y/y respectively, with the latter hurt by heavy cracker maintenance from March–October. Petchem plants were still cracking butane in July but will switch to naphtha from September due to LPG’s narrowing discount to naphtha, further boosting naphtha demand when cracker works end in October.
Refinery runs fell by 0.17 mb/d y/y to 2.98 mb/d, while crude imports tumbled by 0.43 mb/d y/y led by lower imports from Saudi Arabia (-0.35 mb/d) and the FSU (-0.10 mb/d). Iranian imports grew m/m and y/y to 0.18 mb/d as refineries likely raised imports before sanctions on dollar transactions began in August. Japan was a net product importer at 55 thousand b/d (+0.13 mb/d y/y) on higher naphtha imports (+20 thousand b/d) and lower exports of gasoline (-36 thousand b/d) and diesel (-97 thousand b/d). Crude stocks fell m/m by 3.5 mb to 74.7 mb—the lowest on our records dating to 1995 and product stocks grew by 1.3 mb led by kerosene (+0.93 mb).