THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Cheap Oil Means Record U.S. Trade Surplus With OPEC

04/06/2016

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April 6, 2016 | By: JEFFREY SPARSHOTT

Cheap oil, a strong dollar and slow growth abroad continue to break historical U.S. trade patterns.

In February, the average price per barrel of imported crude slipped to $27.48,  the lowest mark since December 2003. Petroleum imports fell to the lowest level since September 2002. And the U.S. registered a trade surplus with Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries nations–the highest on record–according to Census Bureau data.

OPEC has felt the full force of rising U.S. oil production and a slowdown in many overseas markets that have translated into a global energy glut. A stronger dollar has also helped push down commodity prices while making American goods more expensive overseas.

OPEC officials, of course, have contributed to the oil oversupply. They are set to meet in Qatar later this month to discuss a pact to freeze production to support prices, but global output has remained robust.

The result? The U.S. has posted a trade surplus with the oil-producing bloc, which includes Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Nigeria, in 10 of the past 12 months. For February, the figure was a record $1.8 billion. In the prior 30 years, the U.S. had only posted a surplus two other times.

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