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Oil Rallies Above $93; Eyes on US Inventory Data

Oil moved sharply higher on Wednesday, after falling for the past two days, supported by expectations of a further fall in U.S. crude oil supplies and as OPEC brushed off U.S. calls to raise output.

Oil Pipeline in Germany
Oil Pipeline in Germany

U.S. light, sweet crude December delivery rose by more than $2. London Brent crude gained.

Oil has fallen more than $7 a barrel from last week's record of $98.62, pressured by evidence that high prices may be affecting demand, after the International Energy Agency's latest monthly oil market report cut predictions for demand growth.

But a weak dollar and expectations that demand from emerging market countries will stay strong helped drive the market higher.

"All the reasons that have taken us above $90 are still here," said Harry Tchilinguirian, senior oil market analyst at BNP Paribas.

"If we have a very mild winter, then you could see prices cool off. If not, then oil demand growth remains strong in those areas that matter most: China, Asia and the Middle East."

Speculative inflows of money escaping difficult conditions in the credit markets have also helped bolster prices.

"You have a lot of large blocks of speculative capital in the market which is having a significant pricing impact and adding to volatility," said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch & Associates.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries sees no need to increase oil production now.

"At this time, frankly, we don't see that we should add more oil," said Secretary-General Abdullah al-Badri ahead of the OPEC heads of state summit in Riyadh.

U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman has asked OPEC to agree to boost production because of shrinking oil inventory levels in developed economies.

But Saudi Arabia's oil minister Ali al-Naimi has confirmed that OPEC will not discuss raising crude output at a heads-of-state meeting on Nov. 17-18.

OPEC's next official policy meeting is not until Dec. 5 in Abu Dhabi.

The market focus has shifted back to the short-term outlook, which points to a potential supply shortfall during the northern hemisphere winter.

"The big focus now is the U.S. inventory report. Polls are showing a drawdown in crude stocks and some speculators may be seeing opportunities to buy again after yesterday's fall," said Tony Nunan, risk manager for Mitsubishi in Tokyo.

A Reuters poll shows that Thursday's U.S. inventory data is expected to show crude supplies fell last week by an average of 800,000 barrels, which would be the fourth consecutive weekly decline.

The weekly report is being released a day later than usual, because of the U.S. Veterans Day holiday on Monday.