Oil capped near $97 on oversupply possibility

Oil capped near $97 on oversupply possibility

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Oil remained above $97 a barrel Thursday on lower U.S. stockpiles but concerns of oversupply in the Middle East capped gains.

Benchmark U.S. crude for January delivery was up 4 cents at $97.24 a barrel at midafternoon Kuala Lumpur time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained $1.16 to close at $97.20 on Wednesday.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed Wednesday to maintain its daily production target of 30 million barrels a day.

However, it faces the prospect of overproduction after Iran announced plans to pump up to 4 million barrels a day once sanctions on its crude exports are lifted. Libya also hopes to increase output to 2 million barrels a day once unrest ebbs.

In all, OPEC members would have to reduce their production to keep prices from dropping sharply and hurting oil revenues that underpin their economies. This sparked concerns of a production war inside the cartel.

Jitters over the OPEC meeting offset positive news from the U.S. after the Energy Department said crude oil supplies fell by 5.6 million barrels, or 1.4 percent, last week, ending 10 straight weekly increases. The decline was more than four times bigger than analysts had predicted.

At 385.8 million barrels, the nation’s supply of oil is still 3.8 percent above year-ago levels.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was down 13 cents at $111.75 a barrel on the ICE exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 0.9 cent to $2.71 a gallon.

— Heating oil shed 0.2 cent to $3.057 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 0.4 cent to $3.956 per 1,000 cubic feet.

World stocks down over fears of Fed stimulus cut

World stocks down over fears of Fed stimulus cut

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — World stock markets were in the red Thursday after strong U.S. economic data renewed fears that the Federal Reserve may start cutting its monetary stimulus this month.

In Europe, most markets were muted ahead of European Central Bank and Bank of England policy meetings. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was flat at 6,509.39 while Germany’s DAX was also almost unchanged at 9,142.31. The CAC-40 in France shed 0.1 percent to 4,143.35.

Futures pointed to lackluster trading on Wall Street, with Dow and S&P 500 futures little changed.

A run of stronger economic reports has sparked anxiety that the Fed may decide to begin tapering off its $85 billion of monthly asset purchases at a Dec. 17-18 policy meeting.

A private payrolls report Wednesday from ADP said that U.S. businesses did the most hiring in a year in November, adding 215,000 jobs. October’s increase was also revised up to 184,000. The official data will be released Friday.

Stan Shamu, market strategist with IG in Melbourne, Australia, said new home sales were also very strong, up 25 percent in October and the highest monthly percentage gain since 1980.

“This ADP print certainly raises upside risk to Friday’s November payrolls which are expected to come in at 184,000. A non-farm payrolls print around 200,000 is what many analysts feel is needed to reinforce the December taper argument,” he said.

Since the stimulus has helped shore up stock markets for several years, its potential withdrawal has raised roiled investors, even if it is predicated on an improving economic outlook.