17 December 2014, News Wires – Brent crude held below $60 a barrel on Wednesday, near five-and-a-half year lows, as major oil producers signalled that they would maintain output despite a supply glut and faltering demand in Russia and Europe.Core Gulf OPEC members have said they are prepared to wait as long as a year for the market to stabilise, undercutting hopes they will step in to stem crude price losses.
Oil prices have almost halved over the last six months as increasing volumes of light, high-quality crude from North American shale have overwhelmed demand.
“Every day now you have some Gulf OPEC member actively trying to talk the market down,” said Olivier Jakob, oil analyst at Petromatrix. “OPEC is trying to choke US oil producers.”
Brent for February was down 68 cents at $59.33 a barrel by 1145 GMT. The January Brent contract, which expired in the prior session, hit a low of $58.50 on Tuesday – the weakest since May 2009.
US crude dropped 97 cents to $54.96 a barrel, after touching the lowest since May 2009 at $53.60 on Tuesday.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak has said Moscow will not cut output in 2015, even if pressure on its finances rises with the economy showing signs of severe stress.
The ruble has been hit hard, prompting Russia’s central bank to begin selling part of foreign-currency holdings worth $7 billion in an effort to halt a collapse in its currency.
European shares opened lower on Wednesday as the market reacted to fears over the crisis in Russia, which has sparked further concerns about energy demand growth.
“The weak demand increases the amount of supply that must be removed from the market,” said Carsten Fritsch, an analyst with Commerzbank.
In the US, crude inventories rose by 1.9 million barrels last week, compared with analysts’ expectations for a decrease of 2.4 million barrels, data from the American Petroleum Institute showed late on Tuesday.
Analysts said stock data from the US Energy Information Administration due later on Wednesday could also weigh on market sentiment.
“Unless we see a huge drop in US stocks … it will be bearish,” Fritsch said.