WTI steady at $61 as OPEC considers cuts

Oil steadied after an eight-day losing streak in New York as OPEC was said to consider cutting output again, offsetting concerns that crude is continuing to pile up in the U.S.

West Texas Intermediate futures were little changed, having lost more than 8 percent since Oct. 26.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies may discuss the possibility of cutting production again next year when they meet in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. Meanwhile, U.S. government data showed nationwide stockpiles rose by 5.78 million barrels last week, exceeding expectations for a 2 million-barrel gain.

Oil slumped last month as fears of a supply squeeze receded, a prospect further allayed this week as the U.S. permitted eight nations to keep buying some crude from Iran despite a new set of sanctions against the OPEC member. Consultant FGE estimates the waivers will allow Iran to continue shipping 1.2 million to 1.7 million barrels a day, more than previously expected.

“OPEC and Russia may use cuts to support prices at $70 a barrel,” said Ole Sloth Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank A/S in Copenhagen. “But the U.S. sanctions waivers could prevent prices from breaking above $80.”

WTI crude for December delivery traded down 4 cents at $61.63 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 8:44 a.m. local time, after falling 0.9 percent on Wednesday. Total volume traded was 18 percent above the 100-day average.

Brent futures for January settlement slipped 19 cents to $71.88 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Prices lost 1.5 percent in the previous two sessions. The global benchmark crude traded at a $10.10 premium to WTI for the same month.

At the gathering in Abu Dhabi, OPEC and its allies will discuss scenarios including a second production U-turn that would curb output next year, according to delegates. Pressure from the U.S. to lower prices is likely to decrease as the country’s midterm elections are over, Saxo Bank’s Hansen said.

Producers including Saudi Arabia and Russia had opened the taps earlier this year following unprecedented political pressure from President Donald Trump. After meeting with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak in Moscow, Lukoil PJSC First Vice President Ravil Maganov said Thursday that a resumption of cuts couldn’t be ruled out, but that they didn’t discuss specific figures.

Last week’s increase in U.S. crude inventories was the seventh week of gains, the longest stretch since early March, according to Energy Information Administration data. Domestic production surged to a record 11.6 million barrels a day, while stockpiles at the nation’s storage hub of Cushing, Oklahoma, climbed by 2.42 million barrels.

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