Oil Trades Near 3-Year Low

Crude oil traded near a three-year low amid speculation OPEC will cut production further this month to check the collapse in prices.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries intends to reduce output when it meets on Dec. 17 in Algeria, Qatar’s Oil Minister Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah said today. The U.S. Energy Department releases its weekly report on fuel inventories later today. Gasoline purchases last week rose from the previous week by 1.7 percent, according to MasterCard Inc.

Crude oil for January delivery traded for $47.04 a barrel, 8 cents higher, in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange as of 12:47 p.m. in London.

Yesterday, futures fell $2.32, or 4.7 percent, to $46.96 a barrel, the lowest settlement since May 20, 2005. Oil has tumbled 68 percent from a record $147.27 a barrel reached on July 11 and is set to decline 50 percent this year, snapping six years of gains.

U.S. gasoline demand dropped 0.3 percent last week from a year earlier, the smallest decline since April, as motor fuel prices fell, MasterCard Inc. said in its SpendingPulse report.

OPEC, supplier of more than 40 percent of the world’s oil, will definitely” cut output at its next meeting in Algeria on Dec. 17 after postponing a decision last month, Qatar’s al- Attiyah said in Dubai today.

He added that he doesn’t know by how much the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries would reduce output. The group wants crude oil prices at between $70 and $80 a barrel because this is the range at which you can invest.”

The group deferred a decision to cut output at a meeting on Nov. 29 in Cairo. OPEC agreed on Oct. 24 to cut shipments by 1.5 million barrels a day.

OPEC Secretary General Abdalla el-Badri said Dec. 1 in Tehran that for sure there will be action” at this month’s summit.

The U.S. is facing its longest economic slump since World War II, said the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private non-profit group of economists based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

U.S. crude inventories probably gained for a 10th week as demand continues to plummet in the world’s largest energy user, according to a Bloomberg survey before the Department of Energy releases its weekly report.

The report will likely show that crude-oil supplies rose 1 million barrels last week, according to the median of 13 responses in a Bloomberg News survey. It would be the 10th consecutive weekly gain. Stockpiles of gasoline and distillate fuel, a category that includes heating oil and diesel, also rose, according to the survey.

Brent crude oil for January settlement traded up 4 cents at $45.48 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures Europe exchange at 12:37 p.m. London time.

The contract declined $2.53, or 5.3 percent, to $45.44 a barrel yesterday, the lowest settlement since Feb. 15, 2005.

TradingEconomics.com, Bloomberg.com
12/3/2008 5:19:17 AM