Oil falls on rising US stockpiles, OPEC policy pause

LONDON: Oil fell below $44 per barrel on Wednesday as a rise in US inventories added to the global glut, and investors discounted the possibility of OPEC cutting output at this week’s meeting. Brent crude was down 60 cents at $43.84 a barrel by 1122 GMT, falling for a fifth consecutive session. It dropped as low as $43.75, its weakest level since Nov. 23, and was on track for its lowest close in two weeks.

US crude traded 47 cents down at $41.38 a barrel. Current oil production is substantially outpacing demand and the growing global surplus has sent prices tumbling by more than 60 percent since June 2014. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), however, is not expected to budge from its stance of keeping output high to defend market share against producers such as Russia and North America.

“The market ascribes an extremely low probability to a change in OPEC policy,” said Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodity analyst at SEB in Oslo.

“If investors thought there was even the slightest risk, we would have seen prices rise in the run up to the meeting.” Beyond OPEC’s meeting, oil traders remained focused on growing stockpiles and high production. Russia continued extracting oil at a post-Soviet record of 10.78 million barrels per day (bpd) in November despite low oil prices, Energy Ministry data showed on Wednesday. Data from the American Petroleum Institute (API) showed a 1.6 million-barrel rise in US crude inventories last week to 489.9 million barrels. The US government’s Energy Information Administration’s inventory report will be published at 1530 GMT. Low oil prices in combination with high debt levels are putting heavy pressure on corporate energy earnings.

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