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Monday, 04-December-2006
Associated Press- - SINGAPORE: Oil prices gained slightly Monday as fresh comments from key OPEC members over the weekend suggested the oil cartel would push for further cuts in output at its next meeting later this month.

Light, sweet crude for January delivery rose 2 cents to US$63.45 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange midmorning in Singapore. The contract on Friday rose 30 cents to settle at US$63.43 a barrel on expectations of higher fuel demand as blustery weather moved across the United States.

The 11-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is set to agree on its deep winter output policy at its Dec. 14 meeting in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

OPEC is expected to address the need to sharply accelerate oil production cuts they have implemented to stem an oversupply, seen mainly in the bulging inventories of the wealthiest industrialized nations.

Recent data from the International Energy Agency showed stocks held among the 30 Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development member countries at the end of September were 2.76 billion barrels, the highest level in almost eight years and 4.5 percent higher than a year ago.

This means OECD members have 55 days' worth of oil consumption in stock, a significant two days more than a year ago.

On Saturday, OPEC's de facto leader, Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister Ali Naimi said the cartel needed to take 100 million barrels out of the market to balance it. Kuwait's Oil Minister Sheik Ali Al Jarrah Al Sabah, who was also at a meeting of Arab oil producers in Cairo, agreed.

The figure is close to what the IEA estimates is the stock build in the third quarter of this year the highest for the period in 14 years and it equates to more than 1 million barrels a day.

Edmund Daukoru, Nigeria's oil minister and OPEC president, said Friday the group is likely to trim production again and he expects a cut of at least 500,000 barrels a day.

"There is likely to be some further trimming, the actual amount will depend on the circumstances," said Daukoru. While the specific amount will be decided at the OPEC meeting based on data and trends, "I don't expect anything less" than 500,000 barrels per day to be cut, he said.

Heating oil futures rose 0.53 cent to US$1.853 a gallon (3.8 liters) while natural gas prices dipped 19.3 cents to US$8.229 a gallon.

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