SINGAPORE // Oil prices stayed above $37 a barrel today in Asia as Opec members talked up more production cuts over the weekend amid weakening global demand for crude. Light, sweet crude for March delivery fell five cents to $37.46 a barrel by late afternoon in Singapore on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $3.53 on Friday to settle at $37.51. The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries has implemented most of the 4.2 million barrels a day of output reductions announced since September, but the cuts have been overwhelmed by a collapse in crude demand amid the global slowdown.
Yesterday, Mohammed Saleh al-Sada, Qatar's minister of state for energy and industry affairs, said Opec is ready to cut output further when it meets next month. Mr Al-Sada said a reasonable price for oil would be $70 a barrel. The Venezuelan oil minister Rafael Ramirez said on Saturday his country would support new production cuts in the face of rising crude inventories. "It's probably 50-50 that they'll cut again in March," said Clarence Chu, a trader at market maker Hudson Capital Energy in Singapore. "The budgets of a lot of those countries run on oil so they need the price higher." Even within Opec, however, there is scepticism over whether reducing supply will spur higher prices. Moussa Marafi, a high-ranking Kuwaiti oil official, told Annahar newspaper in comments published yesterday that crude prices are unlikely to rise above $40 per barrel, even if Opec decides to cut as much as 2 million barrels per day next month. Oil prices are being pressured by surging US crude inventories and a lack of compliance to quotas by some Opec members, he said. "Until demand picks up, oil won't have a significant rally," Mr Chu said. "Another big Opec cut could add $5 to the price, but it's not going to send it to $70."