Bearish oil seen ahead of OPEC meeting

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FILE PHOTO: A man fixes a sign with OPEC's logo next to its headquarters' entrance before a meeting of OPEC oil ministers in Vienna, Austria, November 29, 2017.

But a collapse in oil production in crisis-hit Venezuela and the prospect of fresh Iranian sanctions have raised fears of a supply crunch, sending the price of crude spiking again. Shortly after, since the US shale production wasn't able to offset the production cuts that OPEC and non-OPEC nations made, oil prices rose significantly through 2017 up to 2018 and that made the Trump administration anxious about the effect of higher prices on Trump's political stance.

Meanwhile, U.S. crude stockpiles fell more than expected last week, while gasoline and distillate inventories built, industry group the American Petroleum Institute said late Tuesday, ahead of the government's report on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. (1430 GMT).

There is a risk that traders are expecting a little bit too much heading into the meeting and could reshuffle their positions upon speculation that OPEC will not increase production to the amount now being priced in by the market between 500,000 to 1 million barrels a day. "It's going to be the most interesting meeting for a while". These twin crises could remove 1.5 million barrels a day from the market by next year, while also giving those two nations an incentive to block any efforts to fill the gap.

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"Opec is fractured or fracturing", McKenna said, as Iran, Venezuela, and Iraq "seek to veto the production increase". Russia, by far the largest non-member to join OPEC's cuts agreement, has said it would be happy with lower crude prices and appears keen to start up new fields.

On a related note, Pradhan is slated to attend the OPEC meeting in Vienna on June 20. "If the two want to act alone, that's a breach of the cooperation agreement".

Following a year and a half of voluntary supply cuts led by the Middle East-dominated Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), as well as the non-Opec producer Russian Federation, oil markets have tightened, pushing up prices. Rising interest rates in the U.S. are adding to the strength in the dollar; some of the other countries are having to raise interest rates to protect their currencies against the rampaging greenback.

Tankers waiting to load more than 24 million barrels of crude, nearly as much as state producer PDVSA shipped in April, are sitting off the Opec member's main oil port. Both countries have spare production capacity and raising output even at lower prices would yield significant returns.

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The increase of 300,000 to 600,000 barrels a day - above the current OPEC+ production of about 32 million barrels a day - is a less theoretical number. Output in Saudi Arabia jumped by 85,500 barrels a day, but was partly offset by production outages in Nigeria, Venezuela and Libya.

OPEC, the intergovernmental body that coordinates and stabilizes global oil markets, is expected to convene on Friday for one of its semi-annual meetings. The risk is that Saudi Arabia will choose to go it alone, boosting output.

According to the International Energy Agency, only a handful of countries in the OPEC+ alliance are realistically able to boost production in the short term.

With assistance from Alex Longley. All comments are subject to editorial review.

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