U.S. posts trade surpluses with OPEC in 10 of the last 12 months as oil prices remain low; a U.S. surplus with OPEC has only happened three times in past 30 years

Data released from the U.S. Census Bureau showed a record-setting trade surplus with OPEC for the month of February. Cheap oil, a strong dollar and slow growth abroad have created a trade surplus from the U.S. to OEPC countries in 10 of the last 12 months. In the prior 30 years, the U.S. had only posted a surplus two other times.

Trade between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia shifted from a $0.2 billion deficit in January to a $1.3 billion surplus, according to the Census Bureau.

The gap between U.S. crude oil exports and imports has been narrowing. In February, the Census Bureau reported the U.S. exported $5.1 billion in in crude oil, while importing $8.4 billion. Year-to-date, those numbers are $10.7 billion and $18.7 billion for exports and imports respectively, compared to $14.6 billion and $31.8 billion year-to-date in 2015. Year-to-date, crude oil imports are 75% larger in dollar-terms than exports, compared to 118% in the same time frame in 2015.

The surplus is not being driven by stronger demand for U.S. goods in OPEC countries, either, reports The Wall street Journal. Through the first two months of the year, American exports to OPEC are up 4%, while imports are down 11%.

The cratering of oil prices has certainly impacted oil and gas companies in the U.S. negatively, but lower prices also mean that petroleum imports now account for less than 10% of the total U.S. trade deficit. As recently as 2011, they were more than 60%.

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