OIL PRICES: ABOVE $51
According to REUTERS, oil prices rose in early trading on Wednesday after a report that U.S. fuel inventories may have fallen for a fifth straight week, but contracts remained near the $50 marker where many traders currently see fair value for crude.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were trading at $49.22 per barrel at 0649 GMT, up 53 cents, or 1.1 percent, from their last settlement.
In international oil markets, benchmark Brent crude was trading at $51.38 per barrel, up 51 cents, or 1.0 percent.
Traders said the higher prices were largely a result of a report by the American Petroleum Institute (API) late on Tuesday showing that U.S. crude inventories likely fell for a fifth straight week, declining by 7.6 million barrels.
"All eyes now turn to the EIA crude inventory numbers tonight," said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at brokerage OANDA in Singapore, adding that another confirmed draw in crude stocks would likely push WTI over $50 per barrel.
The U.S. government's Energy Information Administration (EIA) will report official stockpile numbers on Wednesday, although analysts polled by Reuters expect the EIA to report a stock build of 2.6 million barrels for the week ended Sept. 30. EIA.
Gary Ross, executive chairman at the New York-based consultancy PIRA, said that a planned deal by members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to cut output would likely lead to only modest price rises.
Jason Gammel of U.S. investment bank Jefferies said implementation of the deal "may prove unsuccessful" due to rivalries within the group, but he added that "the mere threat of a production cut should put a floor under oil prices until the next OPEC meeting on November 30."
Beyond the uncertainty of an OPEC-deal, Gammel said "security conditions in Nigeria and Libya seem to us the most acute uncertainties in the market," adding that if output in any of these countries recovered "that would mean a very hefty cut from the remaining OPEC members if they want to meet the output target."
ING bank also warned not to read too much into the planned OPEC production cut before details were agreed.
"This is still only a plan, and no final agreement has been made," the bank said, adding that even modest cuts face hurdles given that Iran, Nigeria and Libya have campaigned for exemptions, which would mean members such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia would have to stomach larger cuts.
The Dutch bank said that higher prices "are possible within the coming weeks to next few months, although limited."
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