Oil prices dip as OPEC nears deal to hike output

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Crude oil prices fell on Thursday as crude exporters in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), appeared to be nearing a deal to increase production.

Benchmark Brent crude fell $1.76 a barrel, or more than 2 percent, to a low of $72.98 before recovering slightly to $73.34, down $1.40, by 0945 GMT. U.S. light crude was $1.00 lower at $64.71.

Brent reached a 3-1/2-year high above $80 a barrel last month but has fallen steadily in recent weeks as Saudi Arabia, de facto leader of OPEC, has signalled it intends to raise production to stabilize prices.

OPEC holds its biannual meeting in Vienna on Friday and is widely expected to agree to pump more, possibly supported by some other producers outside OPEC, including Russia.

Iran had been expected to oppose any rise in crude output, but it has now signalled it may support a small increase.

“We need to release supply to the market,” Saudi Arabian Energy, Minister Khalid al-Falih told reporters in Vienna.

Falih said the oil market had now rebalanced and his aim was to prevent a shortage of crude in future that could squeeze the market.

Head of Oil Strategy at French bank BNP Paribas, Harry Tchilinguirian, told Reuters Global Oil Forum he expected OPEC and Russia to agree a compromise that would see a small increase in global oil production.

“It would seem that an aggregate increase in production for OPEC+ of between 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) and 1 million bpd is the range that is being considered,” Tchilinguirian said.

OPEC, together with other key producers including Russia, started withholding output in 2017 to prop up prices, but a tightening market has led to calls by consumers for more supplies.

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