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U.S. Trade Gap Narrower Than Forecast as Service Exports Rise

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The U.S. trade deficit was narrower than forecast in March as record exports of services partly cushioned a drop in merchandise shipments, Commerce Department data showed Thursday.

Key Points

  • Gap little changed at $43.7 billion (forecast was $44.5 billion) from a revised $43.8 billion in February
  • Exports decreased 0.9 percent to $191 billion, biggest drop since October, led by energy, autos and pharmaceuticals
  • Imports fell 0.7 percent to $234.7 billion on capital goods and industrial supplies
  • Exports of services rose 0.6 percent to a record $64.7 billion, led by finance and maintenance and repair

Big Picture

The data help explain how trade ended up making a slight contribution to economic growth last quarter, while highlighting the sometimes under-appreciated role of services in the figures.

Even with the cooling of exports and imports during the month, the outlook for international trade looks relatively stable. Global growth is showing signs of picking up and the Trump administration has backed away from rhetoric such as a pledge to label China a currency manipulator. Meanwhile, steady gains in jobs and wages will help Americans afford products from overseas.

Economists are trying to look beyond the noise of the first two months of the year, with fluctuations that analysts attributed to the timing of the Chinese New Year holiday.

The latest figures might provide some more ammunition for Trump administration officials as they seek to reduce the trade gap and wring more favorable terms from trading partners.

The goods-trade deficit with Mexico widened to $7 billion, the highest since November 2007, as imports rose to a record $28.1 billion. The gap with China increased to $24.6 billion from $23 billion in February. At the same time, exports to the European Union and South Korea rose to records, while shipments to Germany were the highest since 2008.

Other Details

  • Merchandise-trade deficit widened to $65.5 billion on a balance-of-payments basis, from $65.2 billion
  • After eliminating the effects of price fluctuations, which generates the numbers used to calculate GDP, the merchandise-trade gap was little changed at $60 billion
  • Petroleum deficit widened to $7.9 billion, the biggest since July 2015

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Crude Oil

OPEC Expects Increase In Global Oil Demand Raises Members’ Forecast on Crude Supply

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The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) yesterday lifted its forecast on its members’ crude this year by over 200,000 bpd and now expects demand for its own crude to average 27.65mn bpd in 2021.

This is almost 5.2mn bpd higher than last year and around 2.7mn b/d higher than an earlier estimate of the group’s April production.

According to the highlights of the organisation’s latest Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR), OPEC crude is projected to rise from 26.48 million bpd in the second quarter to 28.7 million bpd in the third and 29.54 million bpd in the fourth quarter of the year.

The report also indicated a fall in Nigeria’s crude production from 1.477 bpd in February to 1.473, a difference of just about 4,000 bpd before rising again in April to 1.548 million bpd, to add 75,000 bpd last month.

OPEC stated that its upward revision of members’ crude was underpinned by a downgrade in the group’s forecast for non-OPEC supply, which it now expects to grow by 700,000 bpd to 63.6mn b/d against last month’s report’s projection of a 930,000 bpd rise to 63.83mn bpd.

The oil cartel projected that US crude output would drop by 280,000 bpd this year, compared with its previous forecast for a 70,000 bpd decline.

On the demand side, OPEC kept its overall forecast unchanged from last month’s MOMR, stressing that it expects global oil demand to grow by 5.95 million bpd to 96.46 million bpd this year, partly reversing last year’s 9.48mn bpd drop.

Spot crude prices fell in April for the first time in six months, with North Sea Dated and WTI easing month-on-month by 1.7 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

On the global economic projections, the cartel said stimulus measures in the US and accelerating recovery in Asian economies might continue supporting the global economic growth forecast for 2021, now revised up by 0.1 percent to reach 5.5 percent year-on-year.

This comes after a 3.5 percent year-on-year contraction estimated for the global economy in 2020.

However, global economic growth for 2021 remains clouded by uncertainties including, but not limited to the spread of COVID-19 variants and the speed of the global vaccine rollout, OPEC stated.

“World oil demand is assumed to have dropped by 9.5 mb/d in 2020, unchanged from last month’s assessment, now estimated to have reached 90.5 mb/d for the year. For 2021, world oil demand is expected to increase by 6.0 mb/d, unchanged from last month’s estimate, to average 96.5 mb/d,” it said.

The report listed the main drivers for supply growth in 2021 to be Canada, Brazil, China, and Norway, while US liquid supply is expected to decline by 0.1 mb/d year-on-year.

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Crude Oil

Oil Rises Over Concerns of Fuel Shortages

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Oil prices rose on Tuesday, as lingering fears of gasoline shortages due to the outage at the largest U.S. fuel pipeline system after a cyber attack brought futures back from an early drop of more than 1%.

Brent crude futures rose 35 cents, or 0.5%, to $68.67 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 49 cents, or 0.8%, to $65.41.

Benchmark gasoline futures prices rose 1 cent to $2.14 a gallon.

On Monday, Colonial Pipeline, which transports more than 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, said it was working to restore much of its operations by the end of the week.

Right now there’s a generalized anxiety premium being built into prices because of Colonial and it’s keeping a floor under the market,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital LLC in New York.

Fuel supply disruption has driven gasoline prices at the pump to multi-year highs and demand has spiked in some areas served by the pipeline as motorists fill their tanks.

Traders booked at least four tankers to store refined oil products off the U.S. Gulf Coast refining hub after a cyber attack that knocked out the pipeline, shipping data showed on Tuesday.

North Carolina, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation issued waivers allowing fuel distributors and truck drivers to take steps to try to prevent gasoline shortages.

OPEC on Tuesday raised its forecast for demand for its crude by 200,000 bpd and stuck to its prediction of a strong recovery in global oil demand this year as growth in China and the United States counters the coronavirus crisis in India.

Meanwhile, the rapid spread of infections in India has increased calls to lock down the world’s second-most populous country and the third-largest oil importer and consumer.

India’s top state oil refiners have already started reducing runs and crude imports as the new coronavirus cuts fuel consumption, company officials told Reuters on Tuesday.

On the bullish side for crude, analysts are expecting data to show U.S. inventories fell by about 2.3 million barrels in the week to May 7 after a drop of 8 million barrels the previous week, a Reuters poll showed.

Gasoline stocks are expected to have fallen by about 400,000 barrels, analysts estimated ahead of reports from the American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday and the U.S. Energy Information Administration on Wednesday.

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Markets

SEC To Ban Unregistered CMOs From Operating By Month End

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) says it will stop operations of Capital Market Operators (CMOs) that are yet to renew their registration on May 31, 2021.

This was contained in a circular signed by the management of SEC in Abuja on Monday.

On March 23, SEC had informed the general public and CMOs on the reintroduction of the periodic renewal of registration by operators.

The commission noted that the reintroduction of the registration renewal was due to the need to have a reliable data bank of all the CMOs registered and active in the country’s capital market.

“To provide updated information on operators in the Nigerian Capital Market for reference and other official purposes by local and foreign investors, other regulatory agencies and the general public, to increasingly reduce incidences of unethical practices by CMOs such as may affect investors’ confidence and impact negatively on the Nigerian Capital Market and to strengthen supervision and monitoring of CMOs by the Commission,” SEC explained.

According to the circular, the commission said CMOs yet to renew their registration at the expiration of late filing on May 31, would not be eligible to operate in the capital market.

It explained that CMOs were required to have completed the renewal process on or before April 30, however, the commission said late filing for renewal of registration would only be entertained from May 1 to May 31.

SEC also said that asides from barring the CMOs who failed to comply accordingly, their names would be published on its website and national dailies.

It added that names of eligible CMOs would be communicated to the relevant securities exchanges and trade associations.

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