Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

New York — Oil prices were largely steady on Thursday, coming under slight pressure from a stronger dollar as traders waited to see whether oil-producing countries set to meet in Vienna would extend production limits to reduce the global crude glut.

The dollar rose to a two-month high against the yen after the US Federal Reserve announced it would unwind post-crisis stimulus measures and raised expectations of an interest rate increase in December.

"We’re a little range-bound and choppy, not too much of a direction," said Tariq Zahir, a trader with Tyche Capital Advisors in New York. "The dollar is a little stronger."

Ministers from oil cartel Opec, Russia and other producers meet in Vienna on Friday and are due to consider extending an agreement to reduce output by about 1.8-million barrels per day (bpd). Many analysts expect them to extend the deal, which currently lasts till March, but many also said prices at current levels could encourage some countries to boost production.

By 3.56pm GMT, Brent crude was trading flat at $56.29 a barrel. US crude dipped 5c to $50.64.

Oil prices have surged more than 15% over the last three months as global oil supply has tightened. The gain would make this the strongest third quarter for the market since 2004. "The bull run in the oil market is running out of steam as unease builds ahead of tomorrow’s Opec/non-Opec meeting," said Stephen Brennock, analyst at London brokerage PVM Oil Associates.

Opec’s output cuts have boosted prices enough to encourage higher production elsewhere. US shale production, especially, has been growing to record highs.

Hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico have also pushed up crude inventories in some parts of the US as refineries have been shut by flooding. US crude production has reached 9.51-million bpd, up from 8.78-million bpd after Hurricane Harvey hit the US Gulf.

Rising US production is "a reminder to the market that Opec has a significant problem on its hands from the continued rise in shale output", said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital in New York.

Front-month Brent futures have risen sharply in recent months, much more than forward prices and the contango, a symptom of an over-supplied market, has gradually disappeared from most crude markets to be replaced by backwardation, a sign of tightness.

Reuters

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