Oil prices jolt past US$95 on release of optimistic economic data from USA and Japan

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March spiked by over two dollars to US$95.46 a barrel. Oil prices spiked above US$95 as economic data from the US and Japan was marginally above expectations. A smaller-than-expected rise in American energy stockpiles also contributed to the outlook. In London, Brent North Sea crude for March delivery spiked to US$95.09. Reports showed Q4 growth in Japan at 3.7%- an unexpectedly strong growth surge. Japan's economy is largely export-based, and the growth figures bode well for global growth and demand for Japanese goods. This highlighted concerns that global growth was not as weak as feared, and that energy demand would continue to grow. It also indicates that the recent slowdown in the US economy has not leaked into foreign economies. On the geo political front, the dispute between ExxonMobil and Venezuela is still seen as supportive to the market. On Wednesday, a New York federal judge had affirmed a freeze on US$300 mln worth of assets owned by Venezuela's state oil company following a legal challenge by ExxonMobil. Venezuela is fighting to overturn the US asset freeze, and other legal actions pursued by ExxonMobil in Britain, the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles. Recent report by the US Department of Energy indicates that crude stockpiles rose 1.1 million barrels to 301.1 million in the week that ended February 8. Oil inventory levels in the United States are viewed as a key indicator for the health of the crude market because the country is the world's biggest energy consumer, followed by China.
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