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China data: Apr crude stocks rise 38 mil barrels from end-Mar

Singapore — China saw a build of 37.84 million barrels in crude oil stocks overApril, from end-March, which was 65.3% higher than the previous month due toheavy crude imports and lower throughput, S&P Global Platts' calculationsbased on latest official data showed Wednesday.

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Crude stocks are likely to continue to rise in May as imports are likelyto remain strong.

China does not release official data on stock. Platts calculates thecountry's net build or draw on crude stocks by subtracting the officialrefinery throughput data from the country's crude supply data. The lattertakes into account net crude imports and domestic production.

The General Administration of Customs data showed that crude imports hita record high of 9.64 million b/d in April, jumping 14.7% from a year ago, andrising 4.1% month on month.

Last month, the heavy inflow pushed the country's crude supply up by 5.4%from March to 13.38 million b/d.

The country's refinery throughput in April, however, edged down 0.5%month on month to 12.11 million b/d, the National Bureau of Statistics' datashowed.

The decline was driven mainly by scheduled maintenance at PetroChina'sSichuan refinery, Sinopec's Gaoqiao and Zhenhai refinery last month, whileindependent refiners had cut their average run by about one percentage point.

With the decline in refinery throughput and the strong growth in supply,the stockbuild of 37.84 million barrels in April was more than the 22.88million barrels of crude that ended up in storage in March.

However, on a year on year basis, the 11.5% increase in crude throughputlast month, was 5.1% lower compared with April 2017.

Generally, crude throughput in 2018 registered a higher year on yeargrowth than crude oil imports, resulting in a slimmer stock build over thefirst four months than during the same period last year.

During January-April, China's crude oil stock stood at 98 millionbarrels, compared with 132 million barrels recorded during the same period in2017.

STOCK CONTINUES TO RISE IN MAY

Looking ahead, China's crude oil stocks are expected to continue to risein May, as its crude oil inflow remained strong despite an expected month onmonth increase in refinery throughput rate.

S&P Global Platts trade flow tracker cFlow showed Wednesday that Mayseaborne arrivals in China was almost flat, compared with April, at 8.71million b/d. The world's biggest crude importer receives oil by both pipelinesand tankers.

Analysts said Chinese buyers were trying to increase imports in an effortto lock in their costs, prior to further gains in oil prices.

International crude benchmarks almost hit the $80/b mark on Tuesday onthe back of geopolitical risk and OPEC's forecast of higher globaldemand.

ICE July Brent crude futures were traded at $79.14/b at 1100 GMT Tuesday.

Meanwhile, May throughput is likely to be slightly higher than in Aprildue to fewer maintenance. Strong demand for gasoil may also encourage anincrease in refining runs.

The average price of gasoil in China gained about Yuan 350/mt ($6.32/b)so far in May from April, Chinese information provider JLC's data showed.

The rising gasoil price has encouraged independent refiners to liftthroughput slightly to 62.9% in May, from 62.4% in April, the data showed.

-- Oceana Zhou, oceana.zhou@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Norazlina Jumaat, norazlina.jumaat@spglobal.com