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Oil little changed, pondering Venezuela, Russia supply ahead of US inventories

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– Crude prices settled little changed Tuesday as the trade awaited data that could show a drop in US crude stockpiles for last week, even as the White House worked on a deal to reduce sanctions on Venezuelan oil that might add to global supply.

Russia’s unwillingness to commit to how much oil it may produce from November onwards, under its OPEC+ collaboration with Saudi Arabia and other producers, also made the trade somewhat queasy, some market sources said. 

OPEC+ is a 23-nation alliance that groups the 13-member Saudi-led Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries with 10 independent oil producers, including Russia.

Moscow and Riyadh announced previously that they would hold back a joint 1.3 million barrels per day of their regular production till the end of the year, with 300,000 of that coming from Russia and the balance 1.0 million from the Saudis. But supply deficiencies within Russia and the Kremlin’s need to maximize oil revenues — despite a 30% gain in crude prices in the third quarter — could force Moscow to revisit those plans, say those in the know.

Russia’s non-committal to Nov production makes market queasy

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak reinforced those suspicions when he told reporters on Tuesday that “it is still too early to talk about (an) OPEC+ decision in November”.

To add to the trade’s consternation, Russia’s central bank said OPEC+, at its next meeting, will discuss a possible oil output increase in early 2024 “in the event that global oil deficit worsens”. 

While Moscow’s supposed concern for the global economy is doubtful, its willingness to fill a supply  gap and profit from it is far more believable. 

New York-traded West Texas Intermediate, or , crude for delivery in November settled Tuesday’s unchanged at $86.66.

The US crude benchmark dipped 0.9% in the previous session after a 6% gain last week on what some described as overblown concerns about sanctions actions by the White House against shippers colluding with Moscow to transport Russian oil at above $60 per barrel cap set by the G7 to punish Vladimir Putin’s administration over its invasion of Ukraine.

London-traded crude for the most-active December contract settled at $89.90, up 25 cents per barrel, or 0.3%, after Monday’s 1% slide. Last week, the global crude benchmark gained 7.5%.

Higher Venezuelan supply scenario 

Limiting the upside in oil was the impending US deal that would ease exports of Venezuelan crude in exchange for political reforms in the South American country.

Since 2019, the United States has imposed sanctions on oil exports from Venezuela, itself a member OPEC, to punish President Nicolas Maduro’s government for 2018 elections that Washington considered a sham.

Notwithstanding those sanctions, the White House has been looking for ways to increase the global flow of oil choked now by OPEC+. 

“The global economy would like to see Venezuela [as] a player again in world oil markets,” former US ambassador to Venezuela Patrick Duddy said.

Even so, industry experts say any sanctions relief on Venezuela would take time to translate into barrels because of additional drilling and other investments that have to be made.

US crude stock drop anticipated for last week

Market participants were also on the lookout on Tuesday for U.S. weekly oil inventory data, due after market settlement from API, or the American Petroleum Institute.

The API will release at approximately 16:30 ET (21:30 GMT) a snapshot of closing balances on U.S. crude, gasoline and distillates for the week ended Oct. 13. The numbers serve as a precursor to official inventory data on the same due from the U.S. Energy Information Administration on Wednesday.

For last week, analysts tracked by expect the EIA to report a drop of 1.4 million barrels, versus the 10.176M-barrel build reported during the week to Oct 6.

On the front, the consensus is for a draw of 1.0M barrels, in addition to the 1.313M-barrel decline in the previous week. Automotive fuel gasoline is the No. 1 U.S. fuel product.

With , the expectation is for a drop of 1.0 million barrels, on top of the prior week’s deficit of 1.837M. Distillates are refined into , diesel for trucks, buses, trains and ships and fuel for jets.

(Peter Nurse and Ambar Warrick contributed to this article)

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