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Oil struggles for gains despite latest production talks

IEA oil market analyst says dynamics still seem to be favoring the supply side.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Oil struggles for gains despite latest production talks
Rally fails to gain traction for crude oil prices after analyst crunch the numbers behind the latest talk of production levels from major oil states. File photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- An overnight rally in crude oil prices sparked by the latest talk of production cuts from OPEC members lost steam after analysts took stock of output data.

Brent crude oil prices moved up nearly 5 percent in overnight trading after ministers from oil-producing countries, as well as those from members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, agreed in Doha to consider holding output steady at January levels.

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"After the meeting four countries - Russia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Venezuela - are willing to freeze oil production at the level of January, if other manufacturers join the initiative," the Russian Energy Ministry said.

Production cut agreements between Russia and Saudi Arabia have been rumored for weeks. The potential for a production freeze, however, comes as Iran, an OPEC member and longtime rival of Saudi Arabia, vows to take a larger market share as sanctions pressures ease.

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Without a widespread agreement, Neil Atkinson, head of the oil markets division at the International Energy Agency, told UPI the market would remain heavily favored toward the supply side.

"We are studying the proposal closely, but at this stage it appears that the number of barrels that will flow into the market during the first half of 2016 is unchanged," he said.

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The price for Brent crude oil opened in New York at $33.36 per barrel, up only a fraction of a percent from the previous session. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for crude oil, stayed below the psychological threshold of $30 per barrel despite a 0.4 percent gain at the open. WTI started the day at $29.57 per barrel.

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OPEC in its market report for February said it estimated oil demand for 2016 would grow by 1.25 million barrels per day, down from the growth forecast for 2015 of 1.5 million bpd. On the economic front, OPEC said it lowered its forecast for global economic growth for 2016, adding export-based economies like Russia may dip into recession for the second straight year.

Oil producers are expected to review production levels during a Wednesday meeting in Tehran. Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh said he agreed to host the meeting, but remained adamant about a full return to the oil market.

"Iran will not overlook its quota," he told the Oil Ministry's news website SHANA.

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