Oil prices aimless ahead of weekly U.S. petroleum stocks data

Oil prices aimless ahead of weekly U.S. petroleum stocks data

Oil prices traded in a narrow range Wednesday ahead of the release of weekly U.S. petroleum inventory data, which is expected to show higher supplies.

But the possibility of more production cuts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries were keeping a floor under prices, as recent comments from key members of the cartel suggest it will push for another cut when it meets Dec. 14 in Nigeria. OPEC says it is concerned about ballooning worldwide crude oil inventories.

Light, sweet crude for January delivery fell 10 cents to US$62.33 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange by midday in Europe. The contract had fallen a penny Tuesday to settle at US$62.43 a barrel.

January Brent crude at London’s ICE Futures exchange fell 1 cent to US$63.31 a barrel.

Ken Hasegawa, a broker with Himawari CX in Tokyo, said prices would take direction from the U.S. supply data.

Crude inventories are expected to reverse their recent decline, according to a Dow Jones Newswires survey of energy analysts. Six of the 10 analysts surveyed expect a build of 900,000 barrels to 2.3 million barrels, while four see a draw of 1 million barrels to 1.25 million barrels. The estimates averaged to a build of 560,000 barrels.

Last week, the Energy Department reported that crude stocks fell by 300,000 barrels in the week ended Nov. 24, as imports plunged below 10 million barrels a day and refinery utilization increased.

Most analysts expected petroleum product stocks to decline.

Distillate stocks, which include heating oil and diesel fuel, were likely to decline by an average estimate of 860,000 barrels, the survey showed. Gasoline stocks were predicted to rise by 140,000 barrels, on average, analysts said.

Heating oil rose slightly to US$1.7972 a gallon, unleaded gasoline futures gained 1.11 cents to US$1.6475 a gallon and natural gas futures fell 6.3 cents to US$7.622 per 1,000 cubic feet.

The U.S. Energy Department said Tuesday in its annual long-term world energy forecast that the price of oil, when adjusted for inflation, would decline between 2007 and 2015 as investments made in recent years of historically high prices bring new supplies to the market.

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