Oil and Gas

Fed 'tapering' set to hit oil demand: IEA report

Turmoil in emerging markets due to the tapering of liquidity by the U.S. Federal Reserve is set to take its toll on global oil demand, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), echoing concerns voiced by OPEC a day earlier.

The influential global energy research body announced on Thursday that it had adopted a more "conservative stance" for its oil demand forecasts for non-OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) countries in the first quarter of 2014.

(Read More: OPEC: EM currency rout could hit oil demand)

It shaved off 80,000 barrels per day from the first quarter non‐OECD demand estimate, citing currency weakness in many emerging‐market economies. Since the global financial crash of 2008, quantitative easing programs by the Federal Reserve have caused easy money to spread across the globe with investors in search of higher returns.

This liquidity has found its way into many emerging markets in recent years but with the Fed beginning to "taper" its bond purchasing, investors have returned their money to the U.S. at the expense of fragile emerging market currencies.

Russia, South Africa, Brazil, Turkey and Argentina are just some of the countries that have seen weakness in the currencies in January. Central banks in these countries have stepped in to try to manage these declines, but the IEA believes that this in turn could hurt oil demand going forward.

"The negative (first quarter of 2014) impact upon non‐OECD oil demand stems from the associated increase in the cost of doing business, as interest rates have been hiked in many countries in an effort to defend domestic currencies," the report, released on Thursday, said.

(Read More: US crude production continues relentless rise: IEA)

Education Images | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

"OECD economies have not been immune to this phenomenon, with Turkey and Hungary also impacted."

Many cash‐strapped non‐OECD economies react to currency declines by reducing oil subsidies, the IEA explained, which has a knock-on effect of curbing oil usage. In Argentina, the government has agreed to reduce subsidies to the extent that gasoline and diesel prices are effectively hiked by 6 percent, it added.

"Although pressure to further reduce emerging market subsidies remains, this time the largest likely additional impact upon oil demand is expected to be through the detrimental effect of higher interest rates on economic growth," it said.

Nonetheless, the IEA has raised its overall global demand forecast for 2014 since last month's report, to 92.6 million barrels per day, an increase of 125 kilobarrels per day above last month's estimate, due to a more robust OECD outlook, particularly from OECD Americas.

(Read more: Exporting oil a good idea? Not everyone thinks so)

This, it says, more than offsets the reduced non‐OECD projection. Far from drowning in oil, markets have had to dig deeply into inventories to meet unexpectedly strong demand, it said, with OECD commercial stocks at their lowest since 2008.

"While there has been much focus on an apparent slowdown in Chinese demand growth, China is only part of the story. The real surprise has been the recent resurgence of OECD demand growth. Far from continuing its previous downward trend as expected in the second half of 2013, OECD demand bounced back," it said in the report.

"While there are good reasons to expect the market to rebalance in the next few months, a glut is looking increasingly elusive."

By CNBC.com's Matt Clinch; Follow him on Twitter @mattclinch81

Related Tags