Russia Supports OPEC Output Cap, Iraq Backs Out
Oil prices fell on Monday after Iraq said it wanted to be exempt from an OPEC production cut, though prices drew some support from a rally in Wall Street shares and a draw in crude inventories at the U.S. storage hub of Cushing, Oklahoma.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) announced plans last month to cut output to boost prices, but has not yet given details on how it will reach the target. Members meet in Vienna on Nov. 30.
Iraqi oil minister Jabar Ali al-Luaibi said on Sunday the country, second largest producer in OPEC, wanted to be exempt from output curbs as it needed more money to fight Islamic State militants.
"This just casts one more spotlight onto potential uncertainty ahead of this meeting," said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at energy data provider ClipperData.
Brent, the international benchmark for crude, was down 60 cents at $51.18 a barrel by 11:53 a.m. EDT (1553 GMT). U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down 62 cents at $50.24.
Losses were limited as a flurry of deal activity boosted stock prices on Wall Street and as data by energy monitoring firm Genscape showed a draw of about 1.0 million barrels of crude at the Cushing, Oklahoma delivery hub for WTI during the week to Oct. 21.
Comments from Iran's deputy oil minister Amir Hossein Zamaninia also helped limit losses in oil earlier.
Zamaninia said Tehran would encourage other OPEC members to join an output freeze, adding that $55-$60 a barrel was a fair price to bring stability to the market. Oil was trading above $100 a barrel in mid-2014 before a crude glut forced it lower.
Russia, the world's No. 3 oil producer which is not a part of OPEC, was confident of reaching a deal with the group to support the market, said Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, who has been holding talks with Saudi and other OPEC officials.
Saudi Arabia is the world's No. 2 oil producer and largest oil exporter. No. 1 oil producer the United States, responsible for much of the supply glut of the past two years, will not be a party to any agreement between producer countries.
"Ongoing discussions between Saudi Arabia and Russia haven't offered much in the way of definition and we would be surprised by any clarity until the official OPEC talks at the end of next month," said Jim Ritterbusch of Chicago-based oil markets consultancy Ritterbusch & Associates.
Russia Expresses Optimism for Short-Term Cap
A short-term cap in oil output would reduce market volatility, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Monday at a meeting with OPEC Secretary-General Mohammed Barkindo, as both are looking at ways to stabilize prices.
Russia is the world’s largest oil producer but not a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its budget has been hit by low oil prices, the same as for many OPEC nations.
Novak, in Vienna after visiting Saudi Arabia over the weekend for talks with Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, said sharp falls in the price of crude threatened to trigger an oil deficit and unpredictable volatility in prices.
“That’s why … (an oil output) freeze or even a cut for a certain period of time is a right decision for global energy … Being a short-term measure, an oil output cap may help to lower volatility in the market and make it more stable,” Novak said.