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Brent firms to near $112 as BOJ adds to economic optimism

brent-crudeSINGAPORE: Brent crude rose to near $112 a barrel on Tuesday, after Japan pledged to pump in more money to boost its economy, adding to positive growth signals from the United States and China in past weeks.


The Bank of Japan on Tuesday doubled its inflation target to 2 percent and adopted an open-ended commitment to buy assets in a bid to spur growth. China is on track to recover from its longest growth slowdown since the global financial crisis, while economic data from the United States has improved.


 Brent crude for March delivery edged up 21 cents to $111.92 a barrel by 0436 GMT while February US crude was unchanged at $95.56.


"A stronger Japan is good for the global economy," said Jeremy Friesen, a commodities strategist at Societe Generale in Hong Kong.


The stimulus plan will be more positive for base metals than energy as Japan will be building infrastructure that will increase demand for metals such as zinc and copper, he said.


Japan, which has the world's third-biggest economy, is still deciding whether to restart all its nuclear reactors after an earthquake in 2011 caused meltdowns and explosion at the Fukushima plant.


"Japan's energy demand will depend on what they do with the nukes and infrastructure that could create more energy efficiency," Friesen said.


In China, analysts at Barclays Capital said they expect the world's second-largest oil consumer to post stronger demand of 460,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2013, up from 330,000 bpd last year.


"The strength of fourth-quarter demand partly reflects the start-up of new refining capacity and a surge in product exports as well as better domestic demand for gasoline and diesel, plus lower fuel oil imports to feed small local refiners," Barclays analysts said in a note.


"We expect all these issues to be important in 2013 and, although the recent pace of year-on-year growth in oil demand of almost 800,000 bpd will not be maintained."




Broader economic optimism in global markets and worries about supply disruption in the Middle East and North Africa have lifted oil prices at the start of the year although investors remain cautious as a deadline to settle US debts draws near.


"The bigger risk is the focus on the US debt ceiling that will come to a head in the next few weeks," Friesen said.


"Obama seems to have some momentum behind him while the Republicans look fatigued."


A confident President Barack Obama kicked off his second term on Monday with an impassioned call for a more inclusive America.


In Algeria, its prime minister accused a Canadian of coordinating last week's raid on a desert gas plant where 38 mostly foreign hostages were killed and he pledged to resist the rise of Islamists in the Sahara.


But investment in the country's oil and gas sector may fall as concerns about the costs of security after the bloody siege eclipsed the impact of a hydrocarbon law designed to win over foreign firms, executives and analysts said.

Copyright Reuters, 2013