If this were true, we'd expect it to show up as oil inventories getting tight (as current demand was out of line with prices being reduced by feared future collapse in demand). The data on global oil stocks are highly imperfect - they only extend to the OECD, and they are generally several months behind. Such as they are, the graph above (from the May IEA OMR and expressed as days of demand) shows the picture. It does not appear to be consistent with the hypothesis above - stocks are very high in the US (presumably a continuation of the WTI-Brent anomaly), and normal to above average elsewhere. The data extend through the end of March.
That leads me to question the idea that global oil demand is growing in 2012. Roughly speaking my reasoning for thinking that it would be is:
- The US economy is still growing (albeit sluggishly)
- Europe is contracting (but only very mildly)
- Asia is still growing strongly (albeit not at quite as insane a rate as in recent years).
- On balance, then, the global economy must still be growing.
- Generally, when the economy is growing, oil demand grows.
Of course, it's also possible that OECD stocks through March paint a misleading picture - the OECD is only half of global demand these days; maybe the other half is doing something else altogether, and maybe the picture changed substantially in April and May - after all, that's when the price drop mainly happened:
More to follow, I'm sure, as I remain a bit mystified.