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China to offset weak oil demand in Japan, US: OPEC

by Staff Writers
Vienna (AFP) May 11, 2011
The OPEC oil cartel on Wednesday held steady its forecast for world oil demand growth this year, saying rising consumption in China would make up for the uncertain outlook in the United States and in quake-hit Japan.

"World oil demand is forecast to grow by 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2011, broadly unchanged from the previous report," the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said in its latest monthly oil market report.

"The Japanese earthquake, along with economic uncertainty in the US, is keeping oil demand estimates in an adjustment mode and is imposing a downside risk for the year's forecasts," the cartel wrote.

"At the same time, China's economy is roaring ahead of all expectations, which has implications on the country's consumption. As a result of the offsetting demand trends, the risks look to be nearly balanced at the present time."

US economic growth has slowed sharply in the first quarter, mainly as a result of a drop in government spending, placing a major question mark over oil consumption in the world's largest economy, OPEC said.

In Japan, the world's second-biggest economy, the devastating earthquake and ensuing deadly tsunami in March caused the country's oil demand to plunge by 0.2 million bpd in March, and it is forecast to worsen in April and May, OPEC said.

China's economy, on the other hand, is roaring ahead and would likely offset any negative developments in the US and Japan.

"That said, it is too early to alter the existing forecast for world oil demand as risks are nearly balanced with regard to upward and downward movements," OPEC wrote.

The cartel estimated that world oil demand increased by 2.1 million bpd to 86.67 million bpd in 2010 and would rise by a further 1.4 million bpd to 88.08 million bpd this year.

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