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IEA vs OPEC: IEA widens gap with OPEC on oil demand projections for 2024; June policy decision eyed

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The International Energy Agency (IEA) on Wednesday trimmed its forecast for 2024 oil demand growth, widening the gap with oil producer group OPEC in terms of expectations for this year’s global oil demand outlook.

The divide between the IEA, which represents industrialised countries, and OPEC sends divergent signals about oil market strength in 2024 and, over the longer term, about the speed of the world’s transition to cleaner fuels.

Global oil demand this year will grow by 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd), the Paris-based IEA said in a monthly report, down 140,000 bpd from the previous forecast, largely citing weak demand in developed OECD nations.

The IEA said the lower 2024 forecast was linked to poor industrial activity and a mild winter sapping gasoil consumption, particularly in Europe, where a declining share of diesel cars was already undercutting consumption.

“Combined with weak diesel deliveries in the United States at the start of the year, this was enough to tip OECD oil demand in the first quarter back into contraction,” the agency said, noting though that the OECD slump was somewhat offset by resilient non-OECD demand led by China.

On Tuesday, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries had stuck by its expectation that world oil demand will rise by 2.25 million bpd in 2024. The 1.15 million bpd difference is about 1% of world demand.

The gap between the IEA and OPEC is now even wider than it was earlier this year, when a Reuters analysis found that the 1.03 million bpd difference in February was the biggest since at least 2008.

The two are closer in their projections for 2025. The IEA on Wednesday slightly raised its demand growth estimate to 1.2 million bpd. OPEC left its 1.85 million bpd forecast unchanged.

OIL DEMAND IN FOCUS

OPEC on Tuesday sounded an upbeat tone on the global economic outlook, while the IEA on Wednesday was more cautious.

Although the global demand economic outlook has improved since the end of last year, sticky inflation in major Western economies has pushed investors to dial back their expectations for central bank interest rate cuts, the IEA said.

High borrowing costs, which have been in place for months in the United States and Europe, dampen economic growth and oil demand.

The health of global oil demand will inform decision-making by OPEC – which groups OPEC and allies led by Russia – on whether to extend voluntary oil output cuts into the second half of the year when it meets in June.

Next year, the market looks more balanced overall, the IEA predicted, with supply rising outside OPEC.

Even if OPEC voluntary production cuts were to stay in place, global oil supply could jump by 1.8 million bpd in 2025, compared with this year’ 580,000 bpd increase, the agency forecast, largely on the strength of non-OPEC output growth.

The IEA and OPEC also differ over the demand outlook in the medium and long term.

The IEA expects oil demand to peak by 2030. OPEC thinks oil use will keep rising for the next two decades and has not forecast a peak.

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