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Oil edges down in volatile market amid Opec+ uncertainty

(Montel) Oil prices edged lower in early trading on Monday amid uncertainty about future Opec+ production quotas ahead of the alliance's meeting later this week.

The front-month contract for Brent crude North Sea oil was last seen down USD 0.62 at USD 79.96/bbl, while the WTI equivalent was USD 0.65 lower at USD 74.89 /bbl.

"Sentiment remains fairly negative in the oil market, given the ongoing dispute within Opec+ over production quotas. However, there are reports of progress ahead of the group’s meeting on Thursday," said analysts at ING bank.

Last week, the oil cartel said it would postpone a scheduled meeting in Vienna from 26 November to be held online on 30 November instead. Reports emerged that some members of the group, notably Angola and Nigeria, were unhappy with their lower 2024 production targets.

"Whilst Angola is producing below its target for next year, Nigeria is currently producing above its 2024 target," said the ING analysts.

Saudi cut extension?
Market participants are expecting that Opec's biggest producer and exporter, Saudi Arabia, will roll over its additional voluntary cut of 1m bbl/day into next year, according to analysts.

"Clearly, if we do not see this, it would put further downward pressure on the market, given the surplus over [the first quarter of 2024]," said ING.

Analysts at Phillip Nova also reckoned a likely extension of a production curb by Saudi Arabia, "especially after the recent significant drop" in oil prices amid robust supply – particularly from non-Opec producers such as the US.

Indeed, the benchmark Brent crude contract has plunged from a peak above USD 97/bbl in late September to below USD 77/bbl earlier this month.

US crude production, meanwhile, has been hovering near a record high of around 13.2m bbl/day for the past few weeks, while market concerns about a slowdown in global demand have also weighed on prices.

And in China, the world's biggest importer of crude oil, has struggled with a post-pandemic economic recovery.