Crude Oil Slips as Saudi, Venezuela Meeting Yields Little
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Crude oil prices eased in thin trade on Monday as a meeting between OPEC producers Saudi Arabia and Venezuela showed little indication that steps would be taken to boost prices.
Global benchmark Brent futures were down 8 cents at $34.98 at 0932 GMT. They fell 40 cents to $34.06 a barrel on Friday.
US crude futures fell by 23 cents to $30.66, after falling 83 cents to $30.89 on Friday.
Both contracts firmed slightly earlier in the session on Monday in see-saw trade on low volumes as many Asian markets were on holiday for the Lunar New Year.
Saudi Arabia's oil minister Ali al-Naimi discussed cooperation between members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other oil producers to stabilize the global oil market with his Venezuelan counterpart on Sunday, but there was no sign any agreement had been reached to hold an early meeting of suppliers.
"It was a successful meeting and (conducted) in a positive atmosphere," Naimi said, Reuters reported.
Venezuela's Oil Minister Eulogio Del Pino, who is on a tour of oil producers to lobby for action to prop up prices, said his meeting with Naimi was "productive".
"The picture is neither clear nor harmonious," PVM Oil Associates analyst David Hufton said in a note on Monday.
"The market is likely to remain highly volatile and dangerous. Unless there is some pretty bullish news in the next few days the contracts are likely to erode value and head south," Hufton warned.
In a sign Tehran is determined to claw back lost market share after the lifting of sanctions, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh was quoted by the ministry's news agency SHANA on Saturday as saying that France's Total had agreed to buy 160,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian crude for delivery in Europe.
Zanganeh added that Italy's Eni was interested in buying 100,000 bpd and Italian refiner Saras was interested in buying 60,000-70,000 bpd.
The market is eyeing US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's testimony to lawmakers on Wednesday along with US crude inventory data from the Energy Information Administration on the same day.
"We are on hold, waiting for that with a nervous tone," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.
The International Energy Agency and OPEC are also due to release their monthly reports on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.