US, Brent crude tumble as OPEC takes laissez-faire approach

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Crude weakened on Monday, with U.S. oil closing at its lowest in nearly 2 years, as Kuwait said OPEC is unlikely to cut output to support prices and Saudi Arabia privately told oil markets that it is ready to accept oil prices perhaps down to $80 a barrel.

U.S. front-month November crude futures shed 8 cents to settle at $85.74, paring earlier steep losses but closing at its weakest since December 2012. Brent crude oil declined by more than 1 percent to under $89.

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Kuwait's oil minister Ali al-Omair was quoted as saying by state news agency KUNA on Sunday that OPEC is unlikely to cut oil production in an effort to prop up prices because such a move would not necessarily be effective. Oil ministers from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) are scheduled to meet in Vienna on Nov. 27 to consider whether to adjust their output target of 30 million barrels per day (bpd) for early 2015.

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Some OPEC members are clamoring for urgent production cuts to push global oil prices back up above $100 a barrel.

KUNA quoted Omair as saying $76-77 a barrel might be the level that would end the oil price slide, since that was the cost of oil production in the United States and Russia.

Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia is also quietly telling oil market participants that Riyadh is comfortable with markedly lower oil prices for an extended period, a sharp shift in policy that may be aimed at slowing the expansion of rival producers including those in the U.S. shale patch.

In private meetings with oil market investors and analysts Saudi official have telegraphed that the kingdom, OPEC's largest producer, is ready to accept oil prices below $90 per barrel, and perhaps down to $80, for as long as a year or two, according to people who have been briefed on the recent conversations.

In a monthly report issued on Friday, OPEC said Saudi Arabia reported September production of 9.704 million barrels per day (bpd), up from 9.597 million in August, adding to signs it has yet to respond to a drop in prices well below $100 a barrel by trimming output.

The lack of a Saudi cut could add to perceptions of traders and analysts that the kingdom is looking to defend market share, not prices.