US crude slips 36 cents, settling at $52.89, ahead of key OPEC meeting

  • Oil prices slip ahead of a meeting of the world's biggest exporters.
  • OPEC, Russia and other producers meet in Vienna this week to discuss a potential cut in production.
  • Saudi crude output hits record 11.3 million barrels per day in November.
Oil tanker
Jean-Paul Pelissier | Reuters

Oil slipped in choppy trade on Wednesday ahead of a meeting of the world's biggest exporters who will discuss cutting output to help shore up prices and curb excess supply.

Brent crude futures were down 24 cents $61.84 a barrel by 2:17 p.m. ET, off a session high of $63.39 and bouncing from a low of $60.80. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures ended the session down 36 cents at $52.89.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers will meet in Vienna this week to discuss a potential cut in production.

A monitoring committee of OPEC and its allies, including Russia, agreed on the need to cut oil output in 2019, two sources familiar with the discussions said, adding that volumes and the baseline for cuts were being debated.

"A deeper production cut still remains the most probable outcome of the meeting, but finer details of any agreement are in short supply, which in turn is prompting volatility," said Abhishek Kumar, senior energy analyst at Interfax Energy in London.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told reporters he had a "good" meeting with his Saudi counterpart Khalid al-Falih on Wednesday and they planned more talks.

Russia's No. 2 oil producer Lukoil is ready to cut oil production if OPEC and other leading producers agree to do so, though it would be technically difficult in winter, RIA news agency quoted the company's head Vagit Alekperov as saying.

OPEC wants to avert a build-up in global oil inventories like the one that sent prices from late 2014 into a prolonged slump that brought Brent to below $30 a barrel at the start of 2016.

"The market is expecting that OPEC is going to announce production cuts," said Regina Mayor, global and U.S. sector leader for energy at KPMG. "There has been quite a lack of discipline of late. When you look at U.S. shale production and Saudi production and Russia production, everyone has the pedal to the metal."

U.S. President Donald Trump pressured OPEC not to reduce output.

"Hopefully OPEC will be keeping oil flows as is, not restricted. The World does not want to see, or need, higher oil prices!" Trump wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabian crude supply in November rose to 11.3 million barrels per day, a source familiar with the matter said.. That marks a rise from October's 10.65 million bpd.

An eleventh consecutive weekly build in U.S. crude inventories, the world's largest, has added to pressure on the prices. The American Petroleum Institute said U.S. crude inventories rose by 5.4 million barrels in the week to Nov. 30, to 448 million barrels, in a sign that U.S. oil markets are in a growing glut.

Official U.S. government oil production and inventory data is due later on Thursday, delayed by one day. A Reuters survey forecast a decline of 900,000 barrels.

Asian gasoline refining margins have fallen to their lowest in seven years, as have European margins, meaning that processing it has become a loss-making business, a worry for both oil investors and producers.