October was the second consecutive month Chinese oil demand posted double-digit growth year over year. The country's oil demand climbed by 12.6% in September from a year earlier.
However, the October demand was just a tad higher than September's 33.8 million mt.
Chinese refineries processed a total of 33.29 million metric tons (7.87 million barrels per day) of crude in October, surpassing the previous all-time high of 33.11 million metric tons set in July.
"Chinese industrial production and retail sales rose by more than 16% on year in October according to official data, but the China growth story continues to be driven by domestic demand rather than a recovery in the country's export markets," said Vandana Hari, Asia news director at Platts. "This raises questions about the shape of its economic recovery after Beijing's stimulus package wears out."
"Among short-term factors, expectations of the government announcing a hike in domestic products prices in late October is said to have spurred stockpiling of fuel, which explains the high refining rates," Hari explained.
China raised both gasoline and gasoil prices by Yuan 480/mt ($70.30/mt) effective November 10 in keeping with a product pricing mechanism in force since the start of 2009, which tracks a basket of international crude prices to keep domestic fuel rates broadly in alignment.
Meanwhile, higher crude throughput at the refineries in October coincided with a 12.3% spike in crude imports during the month compared with September and an 11.6% slide in refined products imports month-on-month. October crude imports of 19.33 million metric tons represented a 19.6% increase from a year ago and were the second highest monthly purchase by China historically.
Platts calculates China's apparent or implied oil demand on the basis of crude throughput volumes at the domestic refineries and net oil product imports, as reported by the National Bureau of Statistics and Chinese customs.
The government releases data on imports, exports, domestic crude production and refinery throughput data, but does not give official data on the country's actual oil consumption figure and oil stockpiles.