March 27 (UPI) -- A Canadian energy regulator reported a slight drop in crude oil exports, although the country's central bank said all signs point to growth for 2018.
The National Energy Board reported total crude oil exports for January, the last full month for which data are available, averaged 3.3 million barrels per day, about 2.7 percent less than December. Year-over-year, January 2018 exports declined by about a half percent, or 22,000 barrels per day.
Most Canadian oil exports head south to the United States, though the Trans Mountain project from pipeline company Kinder Morgan could move more oil out of western Canadian ports. The United States, meanwhile, is producing and exporting more of its own oil as well.
Canada is the No. 1 oil exporter to the United States and deliveries have held relatively steady over the last year. The amount of oil sent to the United States from Saudi Arabia, the No. 2 exporter, is down by about 50 percent from the four-year average.
This week, the Central Bank of Canada reported full-year 2017 growth in gross domestic product of 3 percent, the highest level for any of the Group of Seven major industrialized economies. Inflation, meanwhile, is close to the bank's target rate of 2 percent.
"Economic indicators paint a positive picture for 2018 as well," Gov. Stephen Poloz said in a statement.
Alberta dominates the oil landscape in Canada. The provincial government reported a 4.5 percent gain in gross domestic product in the fourth quarter, besting growth in the United States. Exports increased nearly 30 percent on the back of an increase in crude oil production and the provincial deficit is expected to drop $1.1 billion.
The Central Bank raised its policy rate twice last year, reversing course after a period of recession triggered in part by lower crude oil prices. Poloz in his assessment said most segments of the economy are close to operating at the full potential.
"Should this continue, the economy will need less monetary stimulus over time -- a clear sign of progress," he said. "However, the bank will remain cautious in adjusting its interest rate, since a number of uncertainties remain."