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Crude remains lower amid OPEC's indecision on output cuts

Singapore — Crude oil futures remained lower during mid-afternoon trade in Asia Friday as no decisions pertaining to OPEC/non-OPEC production cuts were reached following the OPEC meeting on Thursday in Vienna. At 2 pm Singapore time (0600 GMT), ICE February Brent crude futures fell 45 cents/b (0.75%) from Thursday's settle to $59.61/b, while the NYMEX January light sweet crude contract was 38 cents/b (0.74%) lower at $51.11/b. Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih said Thursday after the group's meeting ended: "I am not confident of an agreement." Ministers said members continue to haggle over how much output to cut and who should get an exemption.

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"There were growing expectations of a production cut before Thursday, and despite the meeting, nothing was concluded. I guess it's just the uncertainty playing out now," said Janu Chan, senior economist at St George Bank.

"Surely OPEC must know, the more that prices fall, the higher the pressure on OPEC/non-OPEC to cut production," Chan added.

OPEC had been expected to reach an agreement in principle among itself Thursday, before inviting Russia and nine other non-OPEC allies to talks Friday to seal the deal.

S&P Global Platts reported that the OPEC producer group pumped 40,000 b/d more in November with Saudi Arabia was largely accountable for the uptick in production, having pumped 11.02 million b/d in November, marking a 350,000 b/d rise month on month.

"Today's [Friday] meeting with other non-OPEC oil producing countries would be crucial for the near term oil prices, said Jayden Loh, sales trader at IG.

"That said, we do have to keep in mind that there may be political motivation for Saudi to not want a production cut. Last month we saw Trump standing by the Saudi Prince over the murder of [journalist] Khashoggi, when the rest of the world were calling out Mohammad Bin Salman for being responsible of the murder. The Saudi kingdom may reciprocate the favor by heeding Trump's call to keep oil prices low," he added.

As of 0600 GMT, the US Dollar Index was 0.11% higher at 96.840.

--Ng Jing Zhi,

--Edited by Irene Tang,