Japanese oil demand returned to growth after five months of declines, up y/y by 6 thousand b/d to 3.23 mb/d in April, as slightly colder temperatures than last year and a pickup in economic activity supported demand for oil products. Kerosene led, up by 49 thousand b/d y/y, as April HDDs were 20% higher than a year ago (4.57 vs 3.57). Jet demand also rose by 22 thousand b/d y/y. Gasoline demand was flat y/y, while diesel demand picked up by 17 thousand b/d y/y on the back of a positive PMI reading in April (50.2), but this may be short-lived as preliminary May readings were back in contractionary territory (49.6). Maintenance at three petrochemical crackers meant offline ethylene capacity was higher y/y by 69 thousand tonnes, leaving demand for naphtha lower y/y by 35 thousand b/d at 0.73 mb/d. This also impacted LPG demand, which fell by 34 thousand b/d y/y to 0.36 mb/d. However, with butane prices falling significantly in May, we expect LPG demand to have increased as two crackers return from maintenance.
Refinery runs fell by 48 thousand b/d y/y in April, to 3.12 mb/d, on the back of higher refinery maintenance (+44 thousand b/d y/y). Crude imports fell significantly, down y/y by 0.19 mb/d to 3.04 mb/d, dragged down by lower Saudi (-0.23 mb/d) and UAE volumes (-0.18 mb/d). April saw Japanese buyers continue to import Iranian crude, but volumes fell significantly m/m to 0.14 mb/d (+0.11 mb/d y/y), in anticipation of US sanctions waivers expiring on 1 May. Crude stocks fell m/m by 2.5 mb to 77.6 mb. Similarly, product stocks were lower m/m by 1.5 mb, at 73.9 mb. Total product exports were also lower by 10 thousand b/d y/y, with a rise in diesel exports (+66 thousand b/d y/y) offset by lower exports of fuel oil (-63 thousand b/d y/y).