Oil slips as US inventories swell, but OPEC may cut supply to avoid glut

Singapore Updated: Nov 22, 2018, 12:27 PM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

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US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures, were at $54.35 per barrel at 0534 GMT, 28 cents, or 0.5 per cent below their last settlement.

Oil prices slipped on Thursday after US crude inventories swelled to their highest level since December 2017 amid concerns of an emerging global glut, although the potential for a supply cut by OPEC prevented further drops.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures, were at $54.35 per barrel at 0534 GMT, 28 cents, or 0.5 per cent below their last settlement.

Front-month Brent crude oil futures were at $63.25 per barrel, down 23 cents, or 0.4 per cent.

US commercial crude oil inventories rose by 4.9 million barrels to 446.91 million barrels last week, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a weekly report on Wednesday. That was the highest level since December last year.

US crude oil production remained at a record 11.7 million barrels per day (bpd), the EIA said.

"US inventory data...continued to show significant supply builds, which comes on the back of sustained record US crude oil production," said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia-Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore.

Some analysts have warned that despite high global production, oil markets have little spare capacity to handle unforeseen supply disruptions.

However, Innes said that once US pipeline bottlenecks were alleviated, which he said he expected in 2019, "the entire notion of a tight global spare capacity argument goes down the well".

A lot of US and also Canadian oil is struggling to get to market because production increases have outpaced pipeline expansions to handle shipping the crude.

As a result, Canada's federal government is considering a proposal from its main oil producing province of Alberta to share the cost of buying rail cars to move oil stuck in the region to refineries in the United States.

Meanwhile, the Middle East-dominated the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is worried about the emergence of a supply glut that could further pull down prices.

To counter that, the producer group is considering supply cuts when it next meets on Dec. 6, although some members, like Iran, are expected to resist any voluntary reductions.

"While there is talk that OPEC plus Russia may again agree to a production cut, the concern is that not all relevant parties will be able to come to an agreement," said William O'Loughlin, investment analyst at Australia's Rivkin Securities.

"Saudi Arabia has hinted at a unilateral cut, but it will want to be careful about annoying the US given that President Trump has been vocal about his desire for lower oil prices," he added.

Trump on Wednesday praised Saudi Arabia over recent oil prices and called for prices to go even lower.

"Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy!... Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let's go lower!" Trump tweeted.

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