Singapore: Oil prices retreated further in Asia Thursday on expectations the OPEC cartel will keep production at present levels despite pressure over falling prices at a key meeting later in the day, analysts said.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for January delivery fell 55 cents to USD 73.14 while Brent crude for January was down 47 cents to USD 77.28 in mid-morning trade.
WTI fell 40 cents in New York late yesterday to its lowest closing point since September 2010. Brent eased 58 cents in London.
The 12-nation Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will hold one of its toughest and most significant meetings in recent years in Vienna later Thursday, with members under pressure to address falling prices, which have sunk 30 percent since June.
"All eyes are squarely on OPEC now. We suspect they will decide to keep to their current 30 million barrel-a-day production level," David Lennox, resource analyst at Fat Prophets in Sydney, told AFP.
"They could make some token, insignificant cuts in production... OPEC has been inclined to surprises before," he added.
Traders have been digesting a plethora of statements from petroleum ministers ahead of the meeting.
Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi was quoted saying he expects the oil market to "stabilise itself eventually," a remark Dow Jones Newswires said suggested he did not see the need for major cuts.
Iran's oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, said his position was similar to Naimi's, even as he expressed concerns about a glut.
"All the experts in the markets believe that we have an oversupply on the market and next year we will have more oversupply," Zanganeh said.