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UK bucks trend of flatlining European oil demand recovery

Highlights

UK fuel sales rise to 88% of pre-crisis levels

EU 5 mobility stagnant at 21% below Jan levels

Second-wave threats hang over further recovery

London — The UK's fuel demand continued to recover last week, narrowing the gap to pre-crisis levels in its main European economic peers where activity indicators have now stagnated for almost a month, according to new data.

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Road fuel sales in the UK rose to 88% of pre-lockdown levels last week, according to official figures, as mobility activity in Europe's second-biggest economy picks up.

Average sales of gasoline and diesel in the week to Aug. 2 rose 5% on the previous week to 15,570 liters per fuel station, according to data released Aug. 6 by the UK's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

By contrast, economic mobility in Europe's other top four economies took another sideways slide last week and have now failed to show an improvement since early-July, the latest Google data shows.

Average mobility indices in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain stood at 17% below pre-crisis levels in the week ending Aug. 2, according to data reported by Google showing activity in workplaces, retail and recreational sites, and transport hubs.

Including the UK, economic mobility in Europe's five biggest economies was 21% below pre-crisis levels last week, the data shows, with the UK lagging its peers at 34.6% below levels at the start of the year.

Regional demand slowdown

Although most European countries have significantly eased lockdown measures since April, most have been hit by fresh outbreaks, with some partial and localized lockdowns implemented to contain rising infection rates.

The pace of economic recovery in Europe "remains muted", Jefferies said in a note Aug. 6, with its economic activity index for the region edging up just one percentage point to 64% of pre-coronavirus levels over the last week.

"Over the last few weeks the recovery in the aggregate euro area EAR index has stalled somewhat, and the outlook for Q3 remains highly dependent on whether there is a spike of new COVID cases as tourism flows rise and schools start to reopen in a few weeks' time," Jefferies said in a note.

S&P Global Platts Analytics estimates that European oil demand will contract by 1.35 million b/d on this year to average 11.91 million b/d.