The U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly jumped to $46.3 billion in August, as the nation's deficit with China surged to a record $28 billion. Oil prices were the other key culprit as the petroleum deficit surged 5.7%.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will leave oil output unchanged, a delegate at the group's current meeting told Reuters. Oil ministers apparently are not worried the weak dollar will drive up the price of crude far enough that it will crimp the global economic recovery.
Crude oil prices moved above $83 Monday -- from just above $70 only two months ago. There are a number of causes for the increased price of crude, among them the growth in demand for oil in China.
May's unexpected rise in the U.S. trade deficit to $42.3 billion isn't likely to resolve the tug of war between the economic optimists and pessimists. Imports and exports both grew, but imports grew marginally faster.
In OPEC's June report, released today, the oil cartel doesn't see global demand changing much. It's sticking with its 0.9 million barrels per day increase (1.1%) for the remainder of 2010. It notes that demand rose a "marginal" 0.4 mbd in the first quarter, so it's already trending a bit behind its yearly forecast.
Oil demand is still soft following the recession, but prices remain high. Investors' use of oil as an alternative investment and a hedge against a decline in the dollar play an important role.
According to the International Energy Agency, oil prices near $85 a barrel could threaten the recoveries of the world's major economies. Crude oil prices are up 25% in two months.
The U.S.'s inability to cut oil consumption has put OPEC in an advantageous position, again. Worse, the U.S. remains vulnerable to another quest by OPEC to explore the market's maximum price for oil -- which could tip the U.S. economy into another recession.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, meeting in Vienna, said it will not adjust its oil output targets, sending prices of crude futures above $82 per barrel on Wednesday, just a day after crude futures fell below $80 per barrel.
OPEC is expected to keep oil supplies flat in 2010, but could gamble that international events will drive up prices.