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Oil Holds Steady With OPEC Working to Bridge Gaps on Policy


By Ann Koh and Alex Longley

(Bloomberg) Oil held steady in New York, with OPEC and its partners engaging in a diplomatic push to agree on output levels before a key meeting on Thursday.Futures were little changed after fluctuating between gains and losses. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is working to gain consensus on a deal to delay a planned increase in production as the global market recovery remains fragile. Members need to thrash out a compromise before gathering for the meeting, which was postponed from Tuesday because of disagreements.

Meanwhile, the American Petroleum Institute reported that U.S. crude inventories rose by 4.15 million barrels last week, according to people familiar with the data. Expanding stockpiles, strong demand in Asia and a suddenly resurgent North Sea market highlight the problems faced by OPEC and its allies as they consider whether a bifurcated market can handle more supply.

There have been renewed signs of underlying strength in the market over the past 24 hours, with the nearest timespread moving into a bullish backwardation structure that indicates tight supplies. Physical markets are looking healthier, with around 20 tankers laden with U.S. crude set to leave for Asia this month and key North Sea swaps markets surging in recent days.

Brent's nearest futures spread has rallied this week

Most OPEC nations at an online session on Monday favored deferring the 1.9 million-barrel daily supply increase due to take effect in January by three months. But the United Arab Emirates pushed back, insisting on stringent conditions, delegates said.

“The market is pricing in a solution that will not see extra barrels hit the market during the early part of 2021,” said Ole Hansen, head of commodities strategy at Saxo Bank. It appears that “OPEC+ will not shoot themselves in the foot so close to an expected pickup in demand.”

Prices
  • West Texas Intermediate for January delivery slipped 8 cents to $44.47 a barrel as of 10:35 a.m. London time
  • Brent for February settlement held steady at $47.38

Nevertheless, the oil market could be underestimating the bearish implications of the delay in the OPEC+ talks, consultant FGE wrote in a report. If there’s no agreement, stockpiles would rise early next year and lead to a very bearish market, FGE said.

Other oil-market news:
  • As well as an increase in crude stockpiles, the API reported an expansion in gasoline inventories last week. That helped drag profits from making the fuel to the lowest level since April on Tuesday — less than $7 a barrel.
  • Mexico will cash in its oil-price insurance policy this year for only the fourth time in the last two decades, receiving a payout of about $2.5 billion from its 2020 sovereign oil hedge, people familiar with the transaction said.
  • Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry signed an agreement with Kuwait Petroleum Corp. on Dec. 1 to lease 500,000 kiloliters, or about 3.14 million barrels, of crude-storage capacity in the Asian nation, it said in a statement on its website.


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