Crude prices rise amid output freeze talks

World oil prices nudged higher Tuesday as OPEC producers met to discuss a possible freeze to crude output levels in a bid to tackle a supply glut.

Around 1300 GMT, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for delivery in April was up one cent at $33.40 a barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for April rose 18 cents to $34.87 compared with Monday’s close.

US crude had rebounded above $30 a barrel and European benchmark Brent climbed well over $34 Monday on hopes that discussions among key producers would lead to concrete action to stabilise the battered market.

“Yesterday’s increase could have come mainly from OPEC trying to rally the market into thinking that there will be action to come between OPEC and non-OPEC producers” over production, Phillip Futures analyst Daniel Ang told AFP.

The leader of Nigeria, Africa’s number one oil producer, was in Saudi Arabia Tuesday, with analysts forecasting that his country will offer its support for an output freeze.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is to meet King Salman in the biggest producer in the 13-nation Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, before travelling on to fellow OPEC member Qatar.

Poorer OPEC members like Nigeria and Ecuador have been clamouring for a cut in production to support prices, which have plunged to near 13-year lows this month.

But OPEC’s richer members led by the Gulf states have refused to budge, preferring to fight for market share against rivals like the US.

However there is now talk of a freeze to current levels of output should OPEC, whose members together pump out about one-third of the world’s oil, convince major non-OPEC producers such as Russia and the US to also maintain their own production levels.

Analysts said traders will this week be monitoring also US growth data for a gauge on the economic health of the world’s top oil consumer.

Before Friday’s data, the US energy department will Wednesday release its inventory on commercial crude stockpiles for last week — a closely watched index measuring energy demand in the United States.

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