365. MASSIVE DROP IN U.S. DEMAND IN APRIL
On Monday (6/30), the EIA reported a gigantic drop in U.S. oil demand. And the figures are for April -- way back in the good ol' days when crude prices ranged between $110-$120.
EIA revises down U.S. April oil demand by 4.2 pctThe size of this drop (down 811,000bpd, year-on-year) is massive. Indeed it's almost enough to wipe out total worldwide growth in oil consumption from 2006 to 2007 (990,000bpd, according to the BP Statistical Review 2008). It is enough to wipe out two years worth of consumption growth from China:
WASHINGTON, June 30 (Reuters) - U.S. oil demand in April was 863,000 barrels per day less than previously estimated and down 811,000 bpd from a year earlier, putting petroleum consumption at the lowest level for any April month in six years, the Energy Information Administration said on Monday.
The lower oil demand was due to rising fuel prices and a faltering U.S. economy that has cut into petroleum use.
U.S. oil demand in April was revised down 4.2 percent from the EIA's early estimate of 20.631 million bpd to the agency's final demand number of 19.768 million bpd, and was 3.9 percent less from 20.579 million bpd a year earlier.
The final numbers were included in the EIA's monthly petroleum supply report and are always different than the initial estimates in the agency's weekly petroleum report.Source
So it strains credulity in the extreme to say Chinese demand is behind the run-up in prices since March. The drop in U.S. consumption in one year (April 2007 to April 2008) was more than twice the rise in Chinese consumption from 2006 to 2007 (325kbd, according to the BP Statistical Review 2008). In other words, the April drop in U.S. consumption wiped out one year's worth of growth from China (325kbpd), Saudi Arabia (149kbpd) and India (168kbpd) combined, and then some.
Furthermore, Chinese demand can't be fingered for price rises in April because Chinese imports were down year-on-year, as I noted earlier:
A decline in China's oil imports in April, the first year-on-year drop in 18 months, also raised questions over demand. China is the world's second-largest oil consumer after the United States. [...] China's April crude oil imports fell by 3.9 percent from a year ago to 3.47 million bpd, and were also down from the record of 4.07 million bpd in March, official Chinese data showed.SourceThere's been no serious decline in supply. We're on the same old plateau, and in fact the IEA reports that supply was up considerably in the 1Q 2008:
Put it all together, and the "demand outstripping supply" theory of the feverish price action since March is emanating an extremely fish-like odor. U.S. demand down by a whopping 0.8mbd year-on-year. That's the elephant in the room now.
Update and more detailed info on this topic here.