Oil prices ease in cautious trading ahead of OPEC meeting

7 2018 shows the headquarters of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna Austria

Oil prices skid amid global stock market slump, swelling US supply

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies continued to haggle over the size of potential crude-production cuts in Vienna on Wednesday.

OPEC meets in Vienna on Thursday to weigh production and on Friday will hold talks with allies such as Russian Federation. "It is still under discussion", one delegate said.

The move would mean reducing production by more than 1 million bpd.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in its 2019 economic outlook, published on Tuesday, that "most major economies are likely to see decelerating activity", although it added that "a steady stream of monetary and fiscal stimulus measures" was expected to stem the slowdown.

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday, December 5, urged OPEC members not to slash production at their upcoming meeting, saying global oil prices should remain low.

Opec's de facto leader, Saudi Arabia, has indicated it wants the organisation and its allies to curb output by at least 1.3 million bpd, or 1.3% of global production.

Oil prices were pressured by a weekly report from the American Petroleum Institute (API) that said U.S. crude inventories rose by 5.4 million barrels in the week to November 30, to 448 million barrels, in a sign that United States oil markets are in a growing glut.

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The Trump administration has sought to maintain oil production to avoid a run-up in prices as it tightens sanctions preventing Iran from exporting crude.

Led by Saudi Arabia, OPEC's crude oil production PRODN-TOTAL has risen by 4.1 per cent since mid-2018, to 33.31 million barrels per day (bpd). Washington also gave sanctions waivers to some buyers of Iranian crude, further raising fears of an oil glut next year.

The United States is not part of any output-limiting initiative due to its strict anti-trust legislation and fragmented oil industry. But they're contending with vociferous opposition from the USA president, who's taken to using his Twitter account to berate the group's policies and sees low oil prices as key to sustaining America's economic growth. Trump wrote in a tweet on Wednesday.

That has put OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia in a delicate position - Riyadh is keen not to incur Trump's wrath as relations between the two countries become increasingly complicated in the wake of the murder of opposition journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

So far, Trump has supported Saudi Arabia's version of the story, which exonerates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of any involvement in the murder, despite United States intelligence agencies allegedly telling Trump the prince was involved.

"We think OPEC will spend some time to choose the words being used. Being too cautious on the words, to please President Trump, runs however the risk of diluting the message", said Olivier Jakob from Petromatrix consultancy. Only the headline has been changed.

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