In October 2023, China observed a reduction in its oil refinery throughput, a notable shift from the preceding month's high levels. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) unveiled a throughput of 63.93 million metric tons, equivalent to 15.05 million barrels per day (bpd). This decline, albeit slight, compared to September's record of 15.48 million bpd, is indicative of weakening industrial fuel demand and a contraction in refining margins.
The decline in refinery operations, while up by 9.1% from the previous October, coincided with subdued industrial activities. China experienced a contraction in factory operations unexpectedly in October, signaling a slowdown not only in manufacturing but also in the services and construction sectors. These developments collectively contributed to a noticeable weakening in domestic fuel demand, prompting adjustments in the operations of Chinese refiners.
Teapot refiners in Shandong province faced heightened challenges due to intense competition for limited Russian oil supply and elevated prices for Venezuelan shipments following U.S. sanctions relief. Consequently, their refining margins dwindled significantly, dropping from approximately 1,200 yuan in March to around 450 yuan per ton in October. This intensified the pressure on margins and led to cutbacks in crude imports and operational adjustments.
Within October, onshore crude inventories surged by approximately 2 million barrels, reaching 958 million barrels by November 2nd. This increase aligns with the scaling back of refinery operations amid narrowing margins. Simultaneously, crude oil production saw a modest uptick to 17.33 million metric tons (4.1 million bpd), showcasing a marginal increase from the previous year.
The news of China's oil refinery slowdown and its impact on refining margins has sparked interest among Forex traders. Changes in China's oil consumption and production metrics tend to influence global oil prices, subsequently affecting currency values in Forex markets. Traders are closely monitoring these developments, as alterations in refining throughput and domestic fuel demand in China could drive fluctuations in oil prices, impacting currency pairs linked to major oil-producing nations. The ongoing shifts in refining operations and margins within China are key factors influencing Forex traders' sentiment and strategies, emphasizing the significance of monitoring oil-related data for comprehensive market analysis.