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Oil prices finish lower as traders sort through talk ahead of an expected OPEC output cut

By Mayra P. Saefong / MarketWatch

Petroleumworld 12 04 2018

Oil prices finished lower on Wednesday as global investors awaited clarity on a possible, but far-from-assured, output cut by major producers gathering in Vienna.

The Joint OPEC-Non-OPEC Ministerial Monitoring Committee, or JMMC, which includes the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries member Saudi Arabia and nonmember Russia, met Wednesday. It recommended a production cut from the September-October output levels, Oman's oil minister told reporters, according to Dow Jones. The minister also said Russia agreed on the need for an output cut.

OPEC will hold its official meeting on Thursday, with another key meeting between the group's members and nonmember allies to be held Friday.

Saudi Arabia's oil minister had cast fresh doubt on whether that production-cut agreement would be reached by OPEC, plus Russia and other producers, in Vienna Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported , citing news reports from the region.

Read: Here's what's at stake in the oil market when OPEC and Russia meet

“According to [Saudi Minister Khalid] al-Falih, it is premature to say whether OPEC and the non-OPEC countries — including Russia — that will be attending the meeting will reach any such agreement,” said Commerzbank commodities analysts in a note, citing those reports.

A report from S&P Global Platts Wednesday said oil production from OPEC rose by 40,000 barrels a day to 33.08 million barrels in November from a month earlier. Output in Iran fell because of U.S. sanctions on the country's energy sector, but production rose in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the report said.

On Wednesday, West Texas Intermediate crude for January delivery CLF9, -0.66%  lost 36 cents, or 0.7%, to settle at $52.89 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract tumbled 22% in November, the biggest monthly fall since October 2008.

Global benchmark February Brent crude LCOG9, -0.77%  shed 52 cents, or 0.8%, to $61.56 a barrel. Both benchmarks are some 30% off the four-year highs hit in early October, a price plunge that is behind the renewed concerns for a global oversupply.

Commodities markets traded per usual, but other U.S.-based risk markets were largely darkened, likely adding volatility in the remaining open markets. U.S.-based equity and interest-rate futures and options products at the CME CME, +0.05%  were closed Wednesday in observance of the national day of mourning for former President George H.W. Bush.

Also see: Qatar's OPEC exit raises the possibility of the oil cartel's demise, experts say

Weekly petroleum inventory data from the Energy Information Administration will be released Thursday, a day later than usual because of Wednesday's national day of mourning. On average, analysts surveyed by S&P Global Platts expect the EIA to report a decline of 2.39 million barrels in crude supplies. If realized, that would be the first fall reported by the EIA in 11 weeks.

Last Tuesday, data from trade group the American Petroleum Institute reportedly showed a climb of 5.4 million barrels for the week ended Nov. 30.

The analysts surveyed by S&P Global Platts also forecast supply increases of 357,000 barrels for gasoline and 1.25 million barrels for distillates.

On Nymex, January gasoline RBF9, +0.10% rose nearly 0.2% to $1.446 a gallon, while January heating oil HOF9, -0.55% fell almost 0.7% to $1.889 a gallon.

Expectation for an oil production cut had strengthened after Russian President Vladimir Putin said over the weekend that he and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman agreed to extend reductions while meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump raised pressure on OPEC to keep oil production flowing. He tweeted Wednesday , “Hopefully OPEC will be keeping oil flows as is, not restricted. The World doesn't want to see, or need, higher oil prices!”

The CME's OPEC Watch Tool Wednesday afternoon pegged the probability of a “small production cut” at the Dec. 6 meeting at 62.4% versus 59.2% late Tuesday. The chance of little or no change to output was at 37.6%.

Rounding up trading in the energy market, January natural gas NGF19, -0.16%  advanced 0.3% to $4.469 per million British thermal units.

Weekly data from the EIA on U.S. natural-gas supplies will be released on Friday instead of Thursday because of Wednesday's day of mourning.


Story by Mayra P. Saefong from MarketWatch.

12 05 2018 20:02GMT

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