Oil prices soared in European session amid news the US is prepared to force to stop Iran's nuclear development. Concerns over oil supply were exacerbated as Venezuela indicated that the OPEC should do nothing to offset the loss, if any, of oil output from the cartel member. China released its preliminary trade data for December. On the whole, import growth missed expectations as driven by earlier Chinese New year, slowdown in external demand which affected processing import growth and the sharp decline in commodity prices.
Tensions over Iran escalated as a former advisor of Obama's National Security Council Dennis Ross said that the US President would not reluctant to use force to stop the nuclear-armed Iran from continuing development nuclear weapons. The comments followed US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's warning that the US 'will not tolerate the blocking of the Straits of Hormuz...That's another red line for us and that we will respond to them'.
As we mentioned in previous articles, suspension of Iranian output or the block of the Strait of Hormuz would result in oil supply shortage in the near- to medium-term. While it's expected that Saudi Arabia would increase production to replace any loss of Iranian oil, Venezuela does not seem to agree with that with oil minister Rafael Ramirez stating that 'any Iranian action in defense of their sovereignty is Iran's issue' and 'OPEC can't get involved in this issue'.
China's trade surplus widened to US$ 16.5B in December from US$ 14.5B a month ago. Exports grew +13.4% y/y, easing modestly from +13.8% in the prior month. Import growth fell to +11.8% in December from +22.1% in November. It also missed consensus of +18.0%. For 2011 as a whole, exports and imports expanded +20.3% and +24.9% respectively, down from +31.3% and +38.9% in 2010. Trade surplus narrowed to US$ 155.1B from US$ 184.5B in 2010.
As the second largest oil consumer, China's net imports of crude oil fell to 5.1M bpd in December, down slightly from 5.51M bpd in November. From a year ago, net imports climbed +4.70%, easing greatly from 11.0% and +28.3% in November and October respectively. Net imports of oil products, including gasoline and diesel, soared to the highest level in 2011, however. Although investors may trade the weaker-than-expected import growth number as a negative sign of China's economic growth, it may be driven by seasonal factor (Chinese New Year). Robust export growth should indicate to investors that demands from countries such as the Eurozone, the US and Japan were not as dismal as anticipated.
Posted courtesy of Oil N' Gold.Com