By Ahmad Ghaddar, Natalie Grover and Robert Harvey
LONDON (Reuters) -OPEC expects the global economy to grow and drive fuel demand, despite macro challenges, including high inflation and interest rates, the producer group’s secretary general said on Tuesday.
The United States is doing well, while Europe is struggling, Haitham Al Ghais told the Argus European Crude Conference in London. Even China, which has emerged from lockdown more slowly than expected, forecasts growth at 4.5% to 5%, he said, outstripping Europe.
“When we talk about demand and our outlook, maybe for the short term to medium term, we still see a healthy global economy growing despite all the challenges and pressures,” he said.
Official data on Tuesday showed China’s crude oil imports in October grew year on year and month on month, while its total exports contracted more quickly than expected.
Expectations of crude run reductions by China-based refiners between November and December could limit oil demand and exacerbate price declines.
But Al Ghais said demand growth in India and in other parts of Asia looked positive, and the aviation sector globally was expected to continue to drive fuel demand.
“In the airline sector, there is still room for improvement, so we are quite positive on demand,” he said.
OPEC’s forecasts for demand growth for 2024 of over 2 million barrels per day diverge from the International Energy Agency (IEA) prediction of growth of 880,000 bpd.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies led by Russia, a group known as OPEC+, meet later this month to set policy.
He said OPEC+ had been proactive and taken preventative action to achieve a stable crude market.
Asked about his views on the shift in global oil trade flows as Europe has shunned Russian fuel since the Ukraine war, Al Ghais said change had been underway before the conflict began in February last year and the market would dictate.
“Ultimately, barrels will flow to wherever the best demand centre, the best price, is,” he said.
(Reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar, Natalie Grover and Robert Harvey; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Barbara Lewis)