Oil below $33 on Saudi comments, report of U.S. inventory rise

Source: By Alex Lawler, Reuters • Posted: Wednesday, February 24, 2016

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil fell below $33 per barrel on Wednesday after Saudi Arabia ruled out production cuts and an industry report said U.S. crude stockpiles hit a record, underlining the supply glut.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said production cuts would not happen although more countries would join a deal to freeze output. OPEC and non-OPEC producers who support the idea are planning a mid-March meeting, his Venezuelan counterpart said.

“Al-Naimi’s remarks punctured an oil-price rally that has lacked substance,” said David Hufton of broker PVM. “The market correctly interpreted the presentation as bearish.”

Brent crude <LCOc1> was down 76 cents at $32.51 a barrel at 0938 GMT. U.S. crude <CLc1> fell 94 cents to $30.93. Both dropped more than 5 percent in intra-day trading on Tuesday.

Also pressuring prices, the American Petroleum Institute (API), an industry group, said on Tuesday crude inventories rose by 7.1 million barrels last week, far exceeding expectations of a 3.4-million-barrel rise.

The U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration, which said last week crude stocks hit a record high, releases its supply report at 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT). [EIA/S]

Oil has slid from more than $100 a barrel in mid-2014, pressured by excess supply and a decision by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to abandon its traditional role of cutting production alone to boost prices.

OPEC and outside producers have stepped up diplomatic activity following the slump in prices to their lowest since 2003 last month, and on Feb. 16 Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Venezuela plus non-OPEC Russia said they would freeze output.

One stumbling block in attempts to forge a wider agreement is Iran, which is increasing output following the lifting of Western sanctions in January and whose oil minister was quoted on Tuesday as calling the deal “laughable”.

And merely not adding more barrels to the market may have little impact on the excess supply, given that OPEC production is running at its highest levels in many years and increased further in January. <OPEC/M> <IEA/M>

“At these levels, even if OPEC members honestly implement a production freeze deal, it will do little to improve balances in the coming months,” analysts at Energy Aspects said in a report.

(Additional reporting by Henning Gloystein; editing by Jason Neely)