Japan oil refiners chief expects gasoline demand to fall and OPEC+ to delay plan to boost output

Sugimori, who chairs Japan's biggest oil refiner Eneos Holdings Inc, said that Japan's gasoline demand may fall deeper again in December and January due to the recent surge in the COVID-19 infections.

Japanese gasoline demand is expected to decline only by 2% in November from a year earlier. But the drop may expand to as much as 9% in December-January, he said, matching the fall seen in August when the number of coronavirus cases spiked.

The head of the Petroleum Association of Japan (PAJ) said on Friday he expects a grouping of OPEC and its allies, known as OPEC+, will likely delay a plan to boost output in January and stick to existing curbs of 7.7 million barrels per day (bpd).

"Given the weaker oil demand amid the resurgence of COVID-19 infections, OPEC+ is likely to keep the current curbs ... after January," Tsutomu Sugimori, president of PAJ, told a news conference.

OPEC+, comprising the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers, will discuss policy at a meeting on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

The 7.7 million bpd reduction was implemented earlier this year to try to counter the impact of a drop in demand triggered by coronavirus lockdowns around the world.

Sources say OPEC+ members are now leaning towards delaying a previously agreed plan to raise output in January by 2 million bpd.

Tokyo raised its coronavirus alert to the highest level on Thursday as its daily tally of new infections rose to a record 534 and its governor called for maximum caution as the year-end holiday season approaches.

(Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Kenneth Maxwell)

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