Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Oil Is Little Changed After Falling on Concern Output Will Rise

Crude oil was little changed in New York after closing yesterday at the lowest since October on speculation the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries may increase production at its meeting today.

OPEC, which supplies more than 40 percent of the world's oil, meets in Abu Dhabi today to decide on output for early 2008. The group could leave its target unchanged, or to raise it by 500,000 barrels a day, which helps prevent accusations the exporters are doing nothing to ease high prices, said an OPEC official, who declined to be identified.

``OPEC would be shooting itself in the foot in the long run if it allows oil prices to stay at where they are because people are finding alternative investments for energy,'' said Mark Waggoner, president of Excel Futures Inc. in Huntington Beach, California. ``Oil prices being too high will slow down the economy.''

Crude oil for January delivery was at $88.46 a barrel, up 14 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 9:59 a.m. Singapore time. Yesterday, futures fell 99 cents, or 1.1 percent, to settle at $88.32 a barrel, the lowest close since Oct. 24. Futures reached a record $99.29 on Nov. 21, and are up 42 percent from a year ago.

Economic Slowdown

U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman yesterday repeated his call for OPEC ministers to increase supply. Even with recent declines, oil prices are still ``very high,'' Bodman said at a news conference in Washington.

The OPEC meeting will conclude with a press conference scheduled for 3 p.m. Abu Dhabi time. OPEC is already fulfilling a pledge from its last meeting in September to boost output by 500,000 barrels a day. The increase started Nov. 1.

Brent crude oil for January settlement was at $89.70 a barrel, up 17 cents, at 9:20 a.m. Singapore time. Yesterday, the contract declined 27 cents, or 0.3 percent, to close at $89.53 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Brent reached $96.65 a barrel on Nov. 26, the highest since trading began in 1988.

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