Europe and oil consumption
Whether Europe will import more or less crude oil in part depends on oil consumption. Although Europe as a whole consumes less crude oil and other liquid fuels than the United States, Europe’s crude oil imports from OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) was comparable to the United States’ in 2013.
According to the Department of Energy, Europe’s crude oil and other liquid fuel consumption (a proxy for oil consumption) equated to 13.71 million barrels a day in March 2014. On a year-over-year basis, to account for seasonality, consumption grew 3.39%, up from the 2.68% registered in February 2014. This is a positive sign that industrial and manufacturing activity in Europe is growing, which should be positive for crude oil consumption and demand for crude tankers.
How crude tankers will perform throughout 2014 will depend on whether Europe can sustain its recovery. Ever since policymakers loosened up on policies to support the region’s economy, since inflation came down and policy makers loosened up on austerity measures, manufacturing activity started to turn around in mid-2012. While recovery wasn’t particularly strong at first, overall economic condition in Europe improved over time.
Even if more product oil is shipped from the United States to Europe and Europe decides to import less crude oil, higher consumption could offset a decrease. As long as Europe continues to improve, the Guggenheim Shipping ETF (SEA) and companies such as Tsakos Energy Navigation Ltd. (TNP), Nordic American Tanker Ltd. (NAT), Teekay Tankers Ltd. (TNK), and Frontline Ltd. (FRO) should benefit.