Refinery

Oil prices rallied today after China released strong trade data, which boosted the demand outlook for oil, while a spurt in tensions in the Middle East again only added to supply concerns, also contributing to the rise.

Brent increased by 50 cents a barrel to $117.74, while US crude increased by nine cents to $95.92, reported news agency Reuters.

China’s January trade data showed that exports rose by 25%, surpassing analyst forecasts of a 17% rise, while imports jumped by 29%, higher than the 23% rise anticipated in a Reuters poll.

The robust data gave an indication that economy may soon be on its feet again in the world’s second biggest oil consumer, although, analysts are still cautious as the economy in 2012 expanded at its slowest pace since 1999.

"Robust data gave an indication that economy may soon be on its feet again in the world’s second biggest oil consumer."

In January, the country’s crude oil imports jumped by 7.4% to 5.92 million barrels per day from 2012, the third highest daily rate on record, as refineries started increasing production before the Lunar New Year.

Possible disruption in oil supplies due to escalating tensions in the Middle East also supported oil prices once more.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s fiery speech and rejection to a US offer for bilateral talks, in relation to its nuclear programme, has added further concerns in the oil markets.

Supply worries also became more heightened after an opposition leader was assassinated in Tunisia, located between major oil producers Algeria and Libya, which led to street riots and violence.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia maintained steady oil production in January, after reducing output for two consecutive months, which surprised oil traders and coincided with a rise in crude oil prices.


Image: In January, exports rose by 25%, surpassing analyst forecasts. Photo courtesy of Peter Facey.

Energy