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EIA, OPEC differ on outlook for global oil demand

WASHINGTON - The U.S. government and OPEC took divergent views on the changing outlook for global oil demand this year, with the Energy Information Administration boosting its growth forecast while OPEC trimmed its downbeat prediction due to persistent U.S. economic weakness.

Because of rising consumption in China and other Asian nations, the U.S. government's energy statistical arm lifted its growth forecast by 120,000 barrels per day to 1.2 million barrels per day as global use rebounds following two years of decline.

"China's economic stimulus package continued to help push up both oil usage and economic growth," the EIA report said.

But the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries took a grimmer view, citing a slower-than-expected recovery from recession as it revised down its growth forecast for the year by 10,000 barrels per day to 810,000 barrels per day, the weakest outlook of the three main agencies that issue forecasts.

"The slow pace of the recovery in the world economy in 2010 is putting pressure on oil demand," the OPEC report said. "Early assessment indicated that worse-than-expected U.S. oil demand might shave more than 100,000 [barrels per day] from the world oil demand growth forecast for 2010."

OPEC kept its oil output targets unchanged at a meeting in December, wrapping up a year of stable policy after making a record cut in its supplies in 2008 as recession eroded demand.

The group meets again in March.

Both forecasts are less upbeat than the International Energy Agency's projection last month of world oil demand this year, which it said would rise by 1.44 million barrels per day to 86.3 million in 2010. The IEA revises its monthly forecast Thursday.

Meanwhile, petroleum supplies are forecast to be tighter.

The EIA narrowed the surplus in global oil supply compared with world demand to just 250,000 barrels per day for this year, down from a 440,000 barrels per day surplus in the agency's forecast last month.

The smaller gap between supply and demand is due to expected higher global oil consumption and EIA revising down its estimate for non-OPEC oil output in this year.

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