Anxiety Over OPEC Cuts Weighs on Oil

By Christopher Alessi Features Dow Jones Newswires

Oil prices edged lower Tuesday amid market jitters over whether -- and for how long -- OPEC and Russia will agree to extend their deal to curb crude production when they convene this week.

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Light, sweet crude for January delivery lost 12 cents, or 0.2%, to $57.99 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down for the second consecutive session. Brent, the global benchmark, declined 23 cents, or 0.4%, to $63.61 a barrel.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is set to meet Thursday in Vienna, where the main issue of debate will be production cuts. OPEC is already holding negotiations with Russia and other producers over a potential extension to an agreement that has reduced the global oil supply by nearly 2% over the past year.

On Tuesday, Kuwait's oil minister said the group has not yet agreed on how long they will extend production cuts past March 2018.

OPEC and 10 producers outside the cartel, including Russia, agreed a year ago to cap their production at around 1.8 million barrels a day lower than peak October 2016 levels to rein in the global oil glut and boost prices. The deal was extended in May to its current expiration in March next year.

Giovanni Staunovo, a commodity analyst at UBS Wealth Management, said it remains unclear whether there is agreement among all participants to extend the deal for a full nine months -- through the end of 2018 -- as the market has been hoping.

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Mr. Staunovo said other issues to watch for include signals about an "exit strategy" from the deal and whether the cartel will push for Libya and Nigeria to be included in a further extension of the production cuts. Those two countries were exempt from the original agreement because their oil industries had been disrupted by civil unrest.

"As OPEC/non-OPEC discussions are already taking place here in Vienna, we believe that the most likely outcome of the Thursday meeting will be a prolongation of the deal for another 6-9 months," analysts at consultancy JBC Energy wrote in a note Tuesday.

Tamas Varga, an analyst at brokerage PVM Oil Associates Ltd, said "anything less than a nine-month extension on Thursday will leave oil bulls disappointed and could lead to a serious exodus."

Oil prices have risen by more than 20% since September on the back of expectations for a deal extension, as well as a newfound geopolitical risk premium.

Traders are also awaiting storage data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration due Wednesday morning. Analysts and traders surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expect the report to show that crude stockpiles declined by 1.9 million barrels, on average, in the week ended Nov. 24.

The American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, said late Tuesday that its own data for the week showed a 1.8-million-barrel increase in crude supplies, a 1.5-million-barrel fall in gasoline stocks and a 2.7-million-barrel rise in distillate inventories, according to a market participant.

Gasoline futures fell 1% to $1.7720 a gallon and diesel futures rose 0.1% to $1.9507 a gallon.

--Stephanie Yang and Benoit Faucon contributed to this article.

Write to Christopher Alessi at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 28, 2017 17:07 ET (22:07 GMT)