UPDATE 2-China Dec fuel stocks rebound after five-month drawdown

Thu Jan 23, 2014 1:11am EST

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* Crude stocks down for 3rd straight month

* Fuel draws suggest higher oil demand for year (Adds in the 8th paragraph that IEA data shows oil demand growth was slowest since at least 1992.)

BEIJING Jan 23 (Reuters) - China's commercial refined fuel stocks rebounded in December as refineries churned up production after five straight months of drawdowns, official news agency Xinhua said on Thursday.

Commercial crude oil inventories fell for a third straight month, however, even though crude imports rose to a record high during the month.

Refined fuel stocks gained 3.32 percent from end-November, with kerosene stocks surging 10.79 percent, gasoline stocks up 2.89 percent and diesel stocks up 2.14 percent, Xinhua reported in its oil and gas newsletter China OGP.

Crude oil stocks fell 0.87 percent in December over the previous month, Xinhua said.

Fuel inventories had thinned for five months in a row through November, and prior to that, stocks had dropped for three consecutive months starting in March, making 2013 a year of repeated inventory draws.

The OGP newsletter does not provide outright inventory volumes, and the government rarely discloses levels of either commercial or strategic oil stocks, making it difficult to gauge real demand in the world's second-largest oil consumer.

China's implied oil demand - refinery throughput plus net fuel imports but excluding changes in inventories - rose 1.6 percent in 2013, or a meagre 150,000 bpd, according to Reuters calculations based on preliminary government data and unrevised 2012 output figures.

That was the lowest calculation for implied oil demand growth since Reuters started tallying the number in 2005. According to data from the International Energy Agency, it was the slowest oil demand growth in China since at least 1992.

The multiple months of fuel stock draws in 2013 suggest real Chinese fuel demand might have been higher than shown by the calculations of the implied numbers. (Reporting by Judy Hua and Chen Aizhu; Editing by Tom Hogue)

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