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Crude oil futures lower on API data; market awaits OPEC meet

Singapore — Crude oil futures were lower during mid-morning trade in Asia Wednesday amid a larger-than-expected build reported in US crude stocks while market participants await the OPEC/non-OPEC meet.

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At 10:20 am Singapore time (0230 GMT), ICE February Brent crude futures were down 71 cents/b (1.14%) from Tuesday's settle at $61.37/b, while the NYMEX January light sweet crude contract moved 58 cents/b (1.09%) lower to $52.67/b.

According to analysts reports quoting the American Petroleum Institute report out Tuesday, US crude inventories for the week ended November 30 rose 5.36 million barrels.

Analysts surveyed Monday by S&P Global Platts on the other hand, were looking for a fall of 2.39 million barrels in US crude stocks to 448.1 million barrels for the same period.

More definitive numbers on US crude inventories are due for release from the US Energy Information Administration later Thursday, which could either confirm a 11th consecutive weekly increase or a snap from the 10 consecutive weekly build.

Meanwhile, analysts said that crude price action is likely to remain volatile ahead of the OPEC/non-OPEC meeting scheduled to be held at Vienna on December 6 and 7.

"Oil prices remained buoyant on expectations of sufficient production cut deal to balance the market in the upcoming OPEC meeting," ANZ analysts said in a note Wednesday.

Iraq appeared open to a return to OPEC production cuts at key policy meeting by the producer group this week, but called on OPEC to consider longer term strategies to help stabilize the global oil market.

Iraq, OPEC's second-largest oil producer behind Saudi Arabia, will look to be "positive and constructive" in efforts to help balance the oil market and support oil prices, oil minister Thamir Ghadhban said in a statement ahead of the key decision on OPEC production levels this week.

"We will listen to the report of the technical committee on the conditions of the global market, and we will discuss this to the proposals that contribute to reaching an agreement between the producers to address the decline in oil prices," Ghadhban said.

Pressure on Saudi Arabia however, continued to be heightened to reassure a nervous oil market following the surprise exit of Qatar from the producer group, said analysts.

Elsewhere, investors would also be watching our for further news on US sanctions on Venezuela after White House officials urged US President Donald Trump to hit Venezuela with sanctions that could further cripple its state-owned oil company PDVSA over human rights violations, according to sources familiar with the discussions, who say that the 30% decline in crude prices over the last two months could embolden the president.

As of 0220 GMT, the US Dollar Index was up 0.09% at 97.005.

--Avantika Ramesh, avantika.ramesh@spglobal.com

--Edited by Irene Tang, irene.tang@spglobal.com