x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Oil climbs ahead of Opec meeting

Investors waiting for the predicted production cut push the price of crude to above $44.

An employee of China Petroleum conducts routine checks on oil piles at a refinery in Sichuan, China.
An employee of China Petroleum conducts routine checks on oil piles at a refinery in Sichuan, China.

SINGAPORE // Oil prices rose above $44 a barrel in Asia today as investors waited to see how big a production cut Opec will announce at a meeting later today in Algeria. Light, sweet crude for January delivery was up 82 cents to $44.42 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by midday in Singapore. The contract fell overnight 91 cents to settle at $43.60 despite signs the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries planned to announce a significant reduction of output quotas.

Saudi oil minister Ali Naimi said yesterday that Opec, which accounts for about 40 per cent of global supply, would likely cut production by about two million barrels per day. The group announced cuts totalling two million barrels a day in September and October, moves that have so far failed to stem a 70 per cent drop in crude prices since July. "You can't take that much oil out of the market and not impact it," Gerard Rigby, an energy analyst at Fuel First Consulting in Sydney, said. "If Opec can keep its discipline, you'd expect these cuts to tighten the market."

Investors may wait to see if Opec follows through with any announced cuts before bidding prices higher, Mr Rigby said. "Opec has lacked credibility for a long time on discipline," he added. "Opec is going to have to show they are committed to the cut, that it's not just talk." If investors brush off another Opec cut and continue to focus on weakening global crude demand, non-Opec producers may join the cartel in lowering output.

"It could put pressure on Russia to make an announcement," Mr Rigby said. "If Opec can get Russia to commit to a cut, that would definitely support the market." Investors will also be watching for signs of slowing US demand in the weekly oil inventories report to be released today by the US Energy Department's Energy Information Administration. The report is expected to show that oil stocks fell 900,000 barrels last week, according to the average of estimates in a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill.

The Platts survey also projects that gasoline inventories rose 1.5 million barrels and distillates dropped 1.8 million barrels last week. In other Nymex trading, gasoline futures rose 2.15 cents to $1.06 a gallon. Heating oil gained 1.67 cents to $1.48 a gallon while natural gas for January delivery jumped 10.4 cents to $5.86 per 1,000 cubic feet. In London, January Brent crude rose $3.08 to $47.64 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange. * AP