Oil prices mixed amid Middle East oversupply concerns
Oil prices were mixed in Asian trade Thursday as dealers worried about an oversupply in Middle Eastern crude, which could push down prices along with increasing US shale oil production.
New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for January delivery, was up 20 cents at $97.40 in afternoon Asian trade while Brent North Sea crude for January eased 19 cents to $111.69.
The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on Wednesday agreed to keep its production ceiling unchanged at 30 million barrels a day (bpd).
However, pledges by its members Iraq and Iran to boost output in 2014 raised concerns about potential oversupply, especially if Libyan oil production is restored and US shale oil output continues to increase.
Iraq's oil minister Abdelkarim al-Luaybi this week said his country hoped to boost exports to 3.4 million bpd next year from current levels of about 2.4 million barrels.
Iran, whose oil exports have been slashed to 1.2 million barrels due to international sanctions imposed on it for its disputed nuclear programme, could immediately ramp up exports to 4.0 million barrels if the sanctions are lifted, according to its oil minister Bijan Zanganeh.
"The possible increasing supply from countries such as Iran, Libya and the US means the group (OPEC) needs to cut down production to keep prices stable," Kelly Teoh, market strategist at IG Markets in Singapore, said in a note.
She added that non-OPEC oil producers may boost supply even if the cartel decides to reduce its output, exacerbating the potential oversupply situation.
US benchmark WTI gained support from the weekly Department of Energy report that showed US crude oil stocks fell 5.6 million barrels to 385.8 million barrels, ending 10 consecutive weeks of gains.
The drawdown came on the heels of news that part of the US Keystone pipeline will open for delivery in January, raising expectations that more oil would move from storage to Gulf Coast refineries.