Supported by a heat wave, Japanese oil demand recovered strongly in July to 3.93 mb/d, the highest since March, and a m/m increase of 0.4 mb/d, almost double the usual monthly upswing seen in July. The y/y declines eased substantially, to just 22 thousand b/d (0.6%), the lowest since January this year. In line with the improvement seen in the utility data for July, fuel oil burn picked up m/m to 0.38 mb/d, lower y/y by less than 0.1 mb/d for the first time since February. Crude burn, meanwhile, was stronger than that suggested by the utility data, picking up y/y by 17 thousand b/d, the first increase in nine months. LPG and kerosene demand also picked up m/m to 0.46 mb/d and 0.12 mb/d respectively, although both stayed marginally lower y/y. Meanwhile, supported by an improving economy and in line with our expectations, gasoline demand rose above 1 mb/d for the first time this year, higher y/y by 21 thousand b/d, while naphtha demand increased to 0.77 mb/d, the highest since March, up y/y by 50 thousand b/d. The heat wave in Japan continued in August, so fuel oil and crude burn should show another month of shallower y/y declines. In September, fuel and crude oil consumption could increase further especially as the two operational nuclear reactors will be shut for mandatory checks.
Japanese refinery runs picked up strongly m/m in July to 3.42, higher y/y by 90 thousand b/d with refineries including Sakai and Showa Yokkaichi finally returning from maintenance. However, the 0.12 mb/d No. 2 CDU at Cosmo's Chiba refinery remained offline while a CDU at the Mizushima refinery only returned at month-end. Crude imports rose by 0.2 mb/d m/m to 3.49 mb/d, with imports from Iran picking up to 0.17 mb/d. Crude inventories fell m/m by 3.1 mb, while product stocks built by 1.9 mb, with total inventories lower by 14.4 mb relative to seasonal averages.