Oil Report

Norway trade surplus grows m/m on record gas exports

OSLO, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Norway’s trade surplus dropped by 21 percent in January from a year earlier, but grew from December as record-high gas exports helped boost the trade figures month-on-month, Statistics Norway said on Monday.

The value of Norway’s gas exports exceeded the value of its crude oil exports for a second consecutive month, as exports of gas have grown, oil prices have fallen steeply from mid-2008 peaks and Norwegian oil exports are in a long-term decline.

The trade surplus slimmed to 29.4 billion Norwegian crowns in January from 37.2 billion in the same month a year ago, hit by lower oil prices, but grew from 26.9 billion in December 2008, the government statistics agency reported.

Norway is western Europe’s biggest gas exporter, satisfying about 16 percent of European Union demand and second only to Russia as a supplier to the continent.

“We have seen a tendency for some time now, that they are going in two different directions -- exports of gas increasing while crude oil is decreasing,” said Trine Tandberg Meggison, an advisor at Statistics Norway.

“The export value for natural gas reached 21.2 billion Norwegian crowns ($3.08 billion), which is the highest ever recorded,” Statistics Norway said in a statement. The value of Norway’s crude oil exports was 18 billion crowns in January.

Excluding oil and gas exports, the trade deficit slimmed to 9.9 billion crowns in January from 11.7 billion in December, but was up from 9.1 billion in January a year earlier. Norway’s petroleum sector accounts for about a quarter of GDP and about half of total exports.

The value of gas exports was up from 20.1 billion crowns in December, when it exceeded the value of crude exports for the first time, Statistics Norway data showed.

The value of gas exports rose by 26.9 percent from January 2008 as exports peaked at 9.8 billion cubic metres, the highest volume ever recorded and a rise of 4.8 percent from December and 9 percent from a year ago, Statistics Norway said.

Lower oil prices pulled down the value of Norway’s oil exports in January by 36.8 percent from a year earlier, to 18 billion crowns, but the value of crude exports was up 0.5 percent from December as prices were up on the month, it said.

The average price of a barrel of oil was 318 Norwegian crowns ($46.15) in January from 291 crowns in December, but oil prices were down from 508 crowns in January 2008, it said.

The number of barrels exported slipped 56 million in January from 56.5 million, it said.

The value of imports fell to 34.6 billion crowns in January from 39.1 billion in the same month a year earlier, it said.

“We know that exports are strongly down, also in volumes... so there is a negative affect from the export sector (on the economy),” said senior economist Erik Bruce at Nordea. “Imports are also dropping, but that is due to slowing domestic demand, so that is not good either.” (Reporting by John Acher; Editing by Andy Bruce)