INDIA OUTPACING CHINA
India's oil demand has grown faster than China's so far this year, highlighting slowing energy demand in the world's most populous country and fueling expectations that India may pick up the slack over the medium-to-long term. The pace of India's demand also reflects optimism about India's economic growth under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In absolute terms China is Asia's largest oil consumer, having burned 10.76 million barrels a day of oil and accounting for 12.1% of global oil consumption in 2013, according to BP PLC.BP.LN -0.32% The second-largest oil consumer in Asia is Japan, though its oil consumption has been declining as its economy has matured.
India ranks third at 3.7 million barrels a day and accounted for about 4.2% of global oil consumption in 2013.
India's oil demand has shown steady growth through July at an average of 3%, or 101,000 barrels a day. China's oil demand has declined at an average of 0.6%, or 62,000 barrel a day, in the same period, Barclays BARC.LN +0.35% PLC analyst Miswin Mahesh said.
Indian oil demand growth has "organic, domestic, economic activity-linked factors still driving it," he said. Mr. Mahesh expects the south Asian country's oil demand to accelerate to 210,000 barrels a day next year, spurred by healthy construction activity, government-financed industrial projects and strong growth in car purchases.
China's oil-demand growth, on the other hand, remains uncertain, with a large portion of its imports this year going into strategic stockpiling instead of consumption. Its oil demand fell into negative territory in July and its oil imports declined for the first time this year.
"This surprise drop in crude imports further supported our view that [China's] full-year oil demand could be weaker than current market expectations," Thomas C. Hilboldt, head of Asia Pacific oil research at HSBC Holdings PLC said last week.
The disparity of the demand drivers in India and China is also telling.
The bulk of oil demand in both countries is for diesel, the most widely consumed liquid fuel in Asia. China's diesel consumption has shown a sharp decline because of its industrial slowdown, while India's diesel demand rose sharply in the last few months because of power shortages and delayed monsoon rains.
Despite this, the extent to which Indian energy demand can compensate for China's decline remains doubtful.
Markets are looking for the next emerging-market economy to take over as China moves into its post-industrial phase. Yet India has a fundamentally different economic structure and growth model, Janet Kong, head of market analysis at BP Singapore's trading division pointed out last week.
"It's very much a service-oriented economy...not relying on a lot of infrastructure investments or manufacturing," she said.
The manufacturing sector in India has underperformed for many years, contributing to about 15% of gross domestic product and 12% of employment, compared with 25% or more of GDP in countries like China, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, according to the Asian Development Bank's 2014 report. Meanwhile, China is transitioning from an industrial economy dependent on exports to focus more on domestic consumption.