NEW YORK, April 28 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabia asserted its influence on an evolving market, sending crude oil prices lower Tuesday after saying it was ready to meet growing Chinese demand.
"We are ready to meet all needs, and with the increasing number of people in Asia and the growth of the middle class, the demand for energy will increase," Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said at an energy meeting in China. "The demand will be met through a growing set of supplies."
Oil prices started falling below the $100 per barrel mark in mid 2014 as U.S. oil production gains tipped the global market toward the supply side. Prices faltered further in November when Saudi Arabia said it would maintain a steady level of production in order to protect its market share.
"From our perspective, Asian oil demand will remain strong and we are ready to meet all needs," the minister said Tuesday.
The price for Brent crude oil drifted lower by a fraction of a percent Tuesday to reach $64.66 per barrel for June delivery. Brent started the month at around $55 per barrel.
A mid-April report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration said Brent crude oil prices would average around $59 per barrel for the year. The low price is slowing work in Texas and North Dakota, the No. 1 and No. 2 oil producers in the nation, respectively.
The Dallas Federal Reserve said Monday the general consensus on broad-based business activity in the state was "quite pessimistic." Companies reporting first quarter results show an ability to weather the storm, however, with BP and French energy company Total both beating analyst expectations.
West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, was off slightly at $56.93 per barrel in early Tuesday trading.