Oil hangs below $74 amid Opec supply decision

Oil hangs below $74 amid Opec supply decision

Singapore: Oil prices hung below $74 a barrel Tuesday in Asia as traders anticipated Opec will leave crude production levels unchanged at the group’s meeting later in the day.

Benchmark crude for February delivery was up 4 cents to $73.76 at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 70 cents to settle at $73.72 on Monday.

The January contract, which expired Monday, closed down 89 cents at $72.47.

The 12-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which accounts for about 35% of global crude supply, will likely keep its production quotas unchanged, the cartel’s leaders said Monday.

Investors will be looking for signs Opec plans to boost compliance with existing output levels. As the price of oil has more than doubled from a year ago, some OPEC members have increasingly exceeded their quotas, analysts say.

“A ’no change’ as far as production quotas are concerned appears virtually assured," Galena Illinois-based Ritterbusch and Associates said in a report. “However, comments from the various oil ministers and language within the communique are likely to suggest a strong effort toward increased compliance."

In other Nymex trading in January contracts, heating oil was steady at $1.95 while gasoline rose 0.5 cent to $1.874. Natural gas rose 6.7 cents to $5.74 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude for February delivery fell 2 cents to $72.97 on the ICE Futures exchange.