Oil rises as markets eye OPEC, Russia meeting on output cuts

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SEOUL (Reuters) – Oil rebounded on Wednesday after a two-day fall, lifted by hopes that a meeting between OPEC members and allied producers on Thursday will trigger output cuts to shore up prices that have crumbled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: A maze of crude oil pipes and valves pictured during a tour by the Department of Energy at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Freeport, Texas, U.S., June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Richard Carson/File Photo

Brent crude LCOc1 was up by 21 cents, or 0.8%, at $32.08 per barrel by 0639 GMT after falling 3.6% on Tuesday. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 rose 82 cents, or 3.8%, to $24.45 a barrel after dropping 9.4% in the previous session.

Thursday’s videoconference meeting between members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, including Russia, is widely expected to be more successful than their gathering in early March. That ended in failure to extend cuts, and a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia amid slumping demand.

But doubts remain over the role of the United States in any production curbs.

“Whether the United States will join output cuts is closely watched as the market’s focus remained on OPEC meeting,” said Kim Kwang-rae, commodity analyst at Samsung Futures in Seoul. “Oil prices have been volatile as the market is in wait-and-see mode.”

Saudi Arabia, other OPEC member countries and Russia, a grouping known as OPEC+, are likely to agree to cut output, but that accord could be dependent on whether the United States would go along with cuts. The U.S. Department of Energy said on Tuesday that U.S. output is already declining without government action.

Iran’s Oil Minister, Bijan Zanganeh, said Iran does not agree with holding any OPEC+ meeting without a clear-cut proposal and expected outcome from such talks, according to a letter sent to OPEC and seen by Reuters.

“Saudi Arabia and Russia continue to hammer out a deal … What is clear is that the United States must be involved,” ANZ Research said in a note.

U.S. crude production is expected to slump by 470,000 bpd and demand is set to drop by about 1.3 million bpd in 2020, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Tuesday.

U.S. crude inventories jumped by 11.9 million barrels to 473.8 million barrels in the week to April 3, according to data from the American Petroleum Institute (API) released on Tuesday.

With a drop in fuel demand amid the virus outbreak, gasoline stocks also rose by 9.4 million barrels, marking the biggest one-week gain in the API figures since January 2017.

Official data from the EIA is due at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) on Wednesday.

Reporting by Jane Chung; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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