Supported by a heat wave, Japanese oil demand stayed fairly stable, up m/m by 26 thousand b/d to 3.96 mb/d, the highest since March. Nonetheless, the y/y declines picked up again, to 0.23 mb/d, due to a very high base. Last August, hydroelectric output was 10% lower than normal on very high temperatures, and while August 2013 saw temperatures hit record highs, most of the upswing in thermal generation has come from coal and natural gas. Fuel oil took the biggest hit, flat m/m at 0.39 mb/d, but down y/y by 0.14 mb/d. LPG (down y/y by 26 thousand b/d) and kerosene (down y/y by 34 thousand b/d) also declined, as did crude burn, lower y/y by 33 thousand b/d, although it did pick up to its highest levels in four months, at 0.24 mb/d. This is broadly in line with Japanese utility data, which showed fuel oil consumption down by 27.9% y/y but crude lower y/y by 4.7%. Meanwhile, supported by an improving economy and in line with our expectations, gasoline demand stayed above 1 mb/d, flat y/y, while naphtha demand increased to 0.78 mb/d, the highest since February, up y/y by 11 thousand b/d. September and October should see overall Japanese demand stay fairly stable at current levels, supported by continued high temperatures and the shut-down of the last two operational nuclear reactors.
Japanese refinery runs picked up further m/m in August to 3.58, the highest since January 2013 and higher y/y by 0.14 mb/d, with one CDU each at the Showa Yokkaichi and Nansei Nishihara refineries returning after maintenance and outage. Crude imports were steady m/m at 3.44 mb/d, but fell y/y by 0.16 mb/d. Imports from Iran moved back above 0.2 mb/d for the first time in four months. Crude inventories fell sharply to a record low of 85 mb, and despite the increase in product stocks, total inventories stand 20.5 mb below seasonal averages.