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India on course for lowest fuel demand growth in six years

By Nidhi Verma
FILE PHOTO: A man pours petrol into an underground tank at a fuel station in Mumbai

By Nidhi Verma

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Growth in demand for fuel in India is on course to fall to its lowest in at least six years as the economy slows and after heavy rains impacted gasoil consumption, which accounts for about two-fifth of the nation's overall fuel use.

In the fiscal year to March 2019, fuel demand rose by 3.4%, the lowest in five years.

During April-September, consumption of refined fuels - a proxy for oil demand - rose 1.4% from a year ago, according to government data.

"It means in the next few months (in this fiscal year) fuel demand need to grow by 3%-4% to reach last year's levels, which looks unlikely," M.K Surana, chairman of state-run Hindustan Petroleum Corp <HPCL.N> told a news conference.

HPCL controls about a quarter of India's retail fuel market.

Slowing economic and industrial activity has already led some global agencies to cut their fuel demand forecast for India.

The International Energy Agency expects oil consumption growth to drop to 170,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2019, the slowest since 2014.

Asia's third-largest economy expanded by just 5% in the June quarter, its slowest pace since 2013, and the International Monetary Fund has cut its growth forecast for this fiscal year to 6.1% from an initial 7%.

Industrial output shrank at its fastest rate in more than six years in August, and passenger vehicle sales slumped 23.7% in September, the eleventh straight month of declines.

"Diesel (growth) is a concern, petrol is not," Surana said, adding gasoil demand should pick up now because the monsoon season was over.

Heavy rains impact road transportation, construction and industrial activity and, by extension, demand for diesel.

Surana said lower demand for diesel has dragged down overall fuel demand growth, notwithstanding rising consumption of liquefied petroleum gas, jet fuel and gasoline.

In April-September, annual diesel demand grew by just 1% while gasoline demand rose by 9%.

Last year, diesel demand grew by 3%. "Definitely I don't think it will be 3% in this year, it will be lower than that", Surana said.


Graphic: India's fuel demand growth set to hit 6-year low - https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/editorcharts/INDIA-FUEL/0H001QXHG9BG/eikon.png


(Reporting by Nidhi Verma; editing by John Stonestreet)