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Close to a trillion

Most of Norway's revenue from North Sea oil goes straight into the giant piggy bank known as the Petroleum Fund. According to the latest count, the fund has now reached 915 billion Norwegian kroner (NOK), or USD 131 billion. "We had a good quarter," said Jarle Bergo of Norway's Central Bank about the fund's performance in the first three months of 2004.

27/05/2004 :: The Norwegian Ministry of Finance estimates that the fund will reach the magical number of NOK one trillion, or one thousand billion.

The return on the Government Petroleum Fund in the first quarter of 2004 was 2.9 per cent. During the first quarter of 2004, the value of the fund increased by 70 billion NOK (USD 10 billion).

From 2 to 1000
The Petroleum Fund was founded by the Norwegian Parliament, the Storting, in 1990. The first transfer to the Petroleum Fund was made for the 1995 fiscal year and amounted to NOK 2 billion (USD 285 million).

Since then, it has grown to NOK 113 billion (USD 16.1 billion) in 1998 to today's record size. If the fund were to be distributed equally between all Norwegians today, it would provide each citizen with NOK 200.000, or close to USD 30.000.

"It's the Japanese stocks that have given the greatest return this quarter," said Knut Kjær, the fund's director, at a press conference on May 24.

"Japan is in a good position to meet the increasing demand in China, especially when it comes to energy."

Currency bonus
According to the Norwegian Ministry of Finance, the increase in market value is due to several factors. Among them are "a positive return, the transfer of new capital and a weaker krone against the currencies in which the Fund is invested."

"NOK 22.1 billion in new capital was transferred to the Fund, while the return on invested capital, measured in international currencies, amounted to NOK 26.1 billion," the Ministry writes on its website.

The fluctuations in the currency market has also had its effect on the value of the Petroleum Fund. 21.8 of the NOK 70 billion increase over the last quarter came from a depreciation of the krone against the investment currencies.

"However," the Ministry writes, "the change in the krone exchange rate has no effect on the Fund’s international purchasing power."

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