Oil resumes decline as OPEC ministers gather for policy meeting

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HONG KONG (Dec 2): Oil fell for the third time in four days as ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries arrive in Vienna to discuss production policy.

Futures dropped as much as 0.6 percent to stay below $42 a barrel in New York. Saudi Arabia will consider all issues at the Friday gathering and listen to the concerns of other group members, Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said. U.S. crude inventories probably declined for the first time in 10 weeks, a Bloomberg survey showed before Energy Information Administration data Wednesday.

Oil has slumped 37 percent since Saudi Arabia led OPEC’s decision in November last year to maintain output and defend market share against higher-cost shale producers. Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh sent a letter to the group calling for a cut in excess supply, according to Mehr news agency. Crude stockpiles in the U.S., the world’s biggest oil consumer, have increased to almost 120 million barrels above the five-year seasonal average level.

“There’s no evidence at this stage that members within OPEC are moving toward a scenario that will see Saudi Arabia back away from its strategy,” Michael McCarthy, a chief strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney, said by phone. “Until we see some sort of shift on the supply side of the equation, the improvement in sentiment around demand is not having much of an impact.”

West Texas Intermediate for January delivery lost as much as 25 cents to $41.60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was at $41.64 at 9:52 a.m. Hong Kong time. The contract gained 20 cents to $41.85 Tuesday. Total volume was about 55 percent below the 100-day average. Prices decreased 11 percent in November, the most in four months.

Brent for January settlement was 17 cents lower at $44.27 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. It slid 0.4 percent to $44.44 on Tuesday. The European benchmark crude was at a premium of $2.63 to WTI.