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Chinese oil demand leaps, but top economies lag: IEA

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March 12, 2010, 7.41 pm (Singapore time)

Chinese oil demand leaps, but top economies lag: IEA

PARIS - Emerging markets are driving unexpectedly strong growth of world oil demand this year with a big boost from China, despite a fall in advanced economies, the International Energy Agency said on Friday.

The IEA warned that demand for oil, a strong indicator of economic activity, would not recover in advanced economies overall this year, but was signalling an 'astonishing' growth trend of 28 per cent in China.

But it raised its forecast for global demand in 2010 to 86.6 million barrels per day (mbd) from its projection last month of 86.5 mbd - a 1.8-percent increase from 2009 demand levels.

The agency said that demand in the area covered by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) remained 'persistently weak', and would fall by 0.3 per cent this year.

The OECD groups 30 developed economies including Britain, France, Germany, Japan and the United States, which account for by far the major part of global economic output.

The agency said in its monthly review of energy markets: 'This year's global oil demand growth will be driven entirely by non-OECD countries, with non-OECD Asia alone representing over half of total growth.'

Demand in developing nations will rise by 4.3 per cent in 2010, offsetting the 0.3-percent contraction in the OECD, the group's fifth year of decline in a row, the IEA said.

'The OECD has not only borne the brunt of the demand slump, but will also see no net recovery at all,' it said.

European demand for oil products sank by 8.0 per cent in January compared to the same month last year owing to sharp drops in heating and fuel oil despite a bitterly cold winter, the IEA said.

The snow blizzard disrupted road travel, thus partly contributing to a fall in fuel demand in January, the IEA said.

But the IEA said the drop also backs up its belief that impact of bad winter weather is diminishing in OECD countries because of a switch from oil to other sources of energy, including cheaper natural gas.

The revised estimate for non-OECD countries was almost entirely concentrated in China where apparent demand surged by 28 per cent year-on-year in January according to preliminary data, the IEA said.

'China is currently expected to account for almost a third of global oil demand growth in 2010,' it said.

But the IEA cautioned that China's January figures, which assumed that refinery runs that month were unchanged from December, may be partly distorted by product stocking.

Crude oil prices rose above US$82 on Friday before publication of the IEA report, lifted by signs of firming demand as the world economy recovers from recession, analysts said.

'There is a general consensus that the global economy is growing,' said Victor Shum, an analyst with energy consultancy Purvin and Gertz in Singapore.

'Market participants are bullish at this point based on economic recovery optimism and are thinking ahead about the summer driving season raising gasoline demand in the US,' he said.

The recovery in global oil demand comes after the worldwide economic crisis caused demand to fall by 1.4 per cent in 2009.

The IEA said the latest data confirms that demand returned to growth on a yearly basis in the last three months of 2009 after five consecutive quarters of decline.

'Assuming that the world's economic recovery is sustained (although many headwinds remain, as noted in last month's report), demand growth should be robust over the next four quarters,' the energy agency said.

The global oil supply rose by 0.9 mbd to 86.6 mbd in February, with the Opec cartel of oil producers registering its first yearly growth since October 2008, the IEA said.

Crude production struck a 14-month high of 29.2 mbd in February, and Iraq accounted for half of the 200,000-barrel-per-day increase, the report said.

The IEA noted that markets expect Opec ministers to maintain current production targets at their next meeting on Wednesday if oil prices remain near 80 dollars per barrel.

Opec chief Germanico Pinto, Ecuador's oil minister, indicated on Thursday that he expected no change in oil production quotas at the group's meeting. -- AFP

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