Japanese oil demand registered a y/y decline of 0.14 mb/d (3.4%) in April to 3.88 mb/d, with the weakness in crude and fuel oil burn due to a warm winter largely offset by improvements in the top and the middle of the barrel. Leading the declines this month were fuel oil and crude burn, which along with kerosene (also used for heating) were the only parts of the barrel to register y/y declines, running lower by 0.16 mb/d (33%) and 0.11 mb/d (33%) at 0.32 mb/d and 0.22 mb/d respectively, broadly in line with the generation data from Japan's top 10 utilities that pegged crude burn decline at 27% y/y and fuel oil at 22%. However, gasoline demand was higher y/y for the first time in six months, while naphtha demand was higher y/y by 90 thousand b/d, the strongest rate of growth since March 2010. LPG, jet fuel and diesel demand were all higher y/y as well. Indeed, as temperature anomalies ease and Japan's fiscal stimulus bears further fruit, we expect Japanese oil demand to pick up in the coming months.
Elsewhere, Japanese refinery runs for March eased both y/y and m/m to 3.47 mb/d, on refinery maintenance. With maintenance continuing and refineries such as Nippon oil undertaking voluntary run cuts due to bloated product stockpiles, runs will remain low through Q2 13. In line with this, crude imports fell sharply m/m (0.48 mb/d) and y/y (0.24 mb/d) to 3.687 mb/d, led by a fall in imports from the Iran, where imports fell to just 8 thousand b/d, the lowest since July last year and from UAE, while imports from Saudi Arabia picked up above 1.2 mb/d for the first time since January. Crude inventories were broadly unchanged m/m and remained below the five-year average by 2.9 mb. Product stocks, meanwhile, built m/m by 2.1 mb.