Oil extends losses ahead of key OPEC meeting




Oil prices retreated further in Asia Thursday on expectations the OPEC cartel will keep production at present levels despite pressure over falling prices at a key meeting later in the day, analysts said.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for January delivery fell 89 cents to $72.80 while Brent crude for January was down $1.19 to $76.56 in afternoon trade.

WTI fell 40 cents in New York late Wednesday to its lowest closing point since September 2010. Brent eased 58 cents in London.

The 12-nation Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will hold one of its toughest and most significant meetings in recent years in Vienna later Thursday, with members under pressure to address falling prices, which have sunk 30 per cent since June.

“All eyes are squarely on OPEC now. We suspect they will decide to keep to their current 30 million barrel-a-day production level,” David Lennox, resource analyst at Fat Prophets in Sydney, told AFP.

“They could make some token, insignificant cuts in production… OPEC has been inclined to surprises before,” he added.

Sanjeev Gupta, head of the Asia-Pacific oil and gas practice at business consultancy firm EY, said “in the absence of an announcement of a major cut… crude oil prices will continue to remain soft till the end of this year”.

Traders have been digesting a plethora of statements from petroleum ministers ahead of the OPEC meeting.

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Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi was quoted saying he expects the oil market to “stabilise itself eventually,” a remark Dow Jones Newswires said suggested he did not see the need for major cuts.

Iran’s oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, said his position was similar to Naimi’s, even as he expressed concerns about a glut.

“All the experts in the markets believe that we have an oversupply on the market and next year we will have more oversupply,” Zanganeh said.

OPEC’s poorer members, led by Venezuela and Ecuador, earlier have called publicly for a cut in output.

But the cartel’s Gulf members, led by kingpin Saudi Arabia, are rejecting such calls unless they are guaranteed market share in the highly competitive arena.

OPEC is currently pumping closer to 31 million barrels a day, or around 43 percent of global production, according to analysts.

“OPEC still controls a large chunk as a whole but as with any cartel, the test will be when prices are falling and members have to make sacrifices,” said Singapore’s United Overseas Bank.

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