Oil Extends Slide as Russia Talks of Easing OPEC Supply Curbs

* Russian minister reiterates that phase-out will be discussed
* WTI falls 1.2 percent as prices in New York drop for third day

By Grant Smith

(Bloomberg) —

Oil declined for a third day in New York after Russia’s energy minister reiterated that OPEC and its partners will discuss phasing out supply curbs when they meet next month.

West Texas Intermediate futures slipped 1.2 percent, extending their pullback from the three-year high reached on Tuesday. Russia and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will discuss whether it’s appropriate to scale back output cuts, Energy Minister Alexander Novak said in St. Petersburg, adding that Russia has a common position with Saudi Arabia that any decision will be guided by market conditions.

Speculation is swirling over whether OPEC and its allies will ease output curbs aimed at shrinking a global glut, and pump more to fill any potential supply gaps stemming from renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran and economic turmoil in Venezuela.

“OPEC will decide to offset any further losses of supply,” said Carsten Fritsch, an analyst at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt. “We will get constant talk about this ahead of the meeting, unless prices drop significantly from here. Novak added further fuel to this debate.”

West Texas Intermediate for July delivery slid 88 cents to $70.96 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 8:20 a.m. local time. Total volume traded was about 3 percent below the 100-day average.

Brent futures for July settlement were down $1 at $78.80 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange, and traded $7.83 a barrel aboveWTI. That spread closed at the widest since April 2015 on Wednesday.

The grades are diverging as rising inventories and record output in the U.S. weigh on American futures, while risks to supply from Iran to Venezuela buoy Brent. A lack of pipelines that can transport crude pumped from the inland shale fields to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast is leading to rising stockpiles as American production tops 10 million barrels a day.

U.S. inventories expanded by 5.78 million barrels to about 438 million barrels last week, data from the Energy Information Administration showed. That was a surprise increase compared with the 2 million-barrel decline predicted in a Bloomberg survey.

Yuan-denominated futures for September delivery were up 0.1 percent to trade at 485 yuan a barrel on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange. The contract declined 0.1 percent to 484.6 yuan on Wednesday.

The U.S. and Venezuela expelled each other’s top diplomats after America imposed sanctions in the wake of a disputed presidential election in the economically fragile Latin American nation. Investors are also watching how renewed U.S. sanctions on the Iranian oil industry and exports affect the market.

Other oil-market news:

* OPEC and allied oil producers including Russia are discussing new ways of measuring global crude stockpiles, signaling a possible decision that could affect production cuts they’re making to ease a global glut.
* Senate Democrats led by Chuck Schumer urged President Donald Trump to “stand up to OPEC” and get the group to moderate oil prices.
* Darren Woods is mounting a strong defense of his plan to rescue Exxon Mobil Corp. from its share-price slump with a multibillion dollar investment spree that’s at odds with the belt-tightening undertaken by rivals.
* Earlier this month, ConocoPhillips obtained court orders freezing assets owned by Venezuelan oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA in the Caribbean. PDVSA hasn’t been able to load a single supertanker of fuel oil to send to China, and vessels were diverted away from Caribbean ports and are backed up around Venezuelan terminals.

–With assistance from Tsuyoshi Inajima and Sharon Cho.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Grant Smith in London at gsmith52@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
James Herron at jherron9@bloomberg.net
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