THE NEW YORK TIMES: Oil Holds Strong as OPEC Promises Defense: “Royal Dutch Shell, meanwhile, has restored 42,000 bpd of oil production after ending a community dispute in the troubled Niger Delta that had shut in 100,000 bpd for a month.” (ShellNews.net) Posted 8 Jan 05
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices steadied Friday, after Thursday's 5 percent surge, as OPEC producers signaled their readiness to defend prices by cutting global supply.
U.S. crude futures settled down 13 cents at $45.43 a barrel after breaking above $46 for the first time since Dec. 21, while London Brent crude was up 33 cents at $43.18 a barrel.
``Crude is up on a combination of seasonal factors, with funds caught short and continued proactive efforts by OPEC to keep prices at levels where they want them to be,'' said Sal Gugliara, vice president at United Energy Inc.
A near 20 percent drop in oil prices since late October's record highs has alarmed OPEC members, who fear that rising energy inventories could further weaken the market, if the northern winter continues to be mild.
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said Friday the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries should take action at its Jan. 30 meeting, if oil fell under $40 a barrel, effectively setting a higher threshold for output cuts by producing countries.
A cutback of up to 1.5 million barrels per day could be made to official output limits, in the event of a U.S. oil price below $40 a barrel, an OPEC source said.
``We should be very concerned about the market. It needs action,'' Zanganeh told reporters in India. But he added: ``I don't think prices will quickly go below $40.''
Saudi Arabia, OPEC's biggest producer, is thought unlikely to support output cuts with prices at $45 a barrel, fearing possible damage to world economic growth.
Thursday's sharp price rise was partly due to a brief cooling in the U.S. Northeast, which has enjoyed relatively mild weather this winter, easing the strain on low heating oil inventories.
U.S. heating oil supplies are running about 9 percent below last year's levels, according to the most recent government data.
Supply concerns also dog exports from the North Sea, where about 350,000 bpd of crude production remains shut in.
Continuing violence in Iraq ahead of elections scheduled for the end of this month has also helped to staunch the selling.
Iraqi officials told Reuters in Baghdad that crude exports via the northern route to Turkey would not resume for at least 10 more days as repairs continued on a sabotaged pipeline.
Royal Dutch Shell (RD.AS)(SHEL.L), meanwhile, has restored 42,000 bpd of oil production after ending a community dispute in the troubled Niger Delta that had shut in 100,000 bpd for a month.
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