Crude oil prices test recent lows at start of holiday-shortened week

Oil prices climb on prospect of OPEC cuts

This comes as supply in the United States is surging, with crude oil production C-OUT-T-EIA up by nearly a quarter this year, to a record 11.7 million bpd.

Ahead of the bi-annual OPEC meeting on December 6th, expectations have been growing that the cartel will look to cut oil output (by roughly 1-1.4mbpd) in order to prevent oversupply given the slowing demand growth, coupled with the surge in oil production by the U.S. (currently producing at a record 11.7mbpd). Russia, meanwhile, is sowing doubts about whether it will join OPEC in its next round of output cuts.

West Texas Intermediate for January delivery traded at $56.37 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down 83 cents, at 8:18 a.m. local time.

Potential sanctions from the European Union would come as the United States has granted waivers to some of Iran's oil customers, muting the policy's expected impact on global supplies.

Trade tensions between the world's biggest economies escalated over the weekend with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's attack on China, adding to worries supply may overtake demand.

OPEC and its de facto leader Saudi Arabia is reportedly planning to persuade its members and allies - including Russian Federation - to reduce output by 1 million to 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd), in order to counter the perceived crude build up.

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Even less confident in OPEC's proposed strategy was Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency: at a news conference in Bratislava, he said the crude market is now well supplied but spare capacity in Saudi Arabia is thin, and therefore cuts by key players could tighten markets. This major catalyst could be the OPEC/non-OPEC meeting on December 6-7, at which the cartel and allies may announce a fresh production cut to stop the price decline, stabilize markets, and erase fears of looming oversupply threatening to sink prices again. Total volume traded Tuesday was 40 percent above the 100-day average.

On Monday, crude oil futures ended up $0.52, or 0.9%, at $57.20 a barrel.

Meanwhile, drillers in the United States added two more working rigs last week, bringing the total to 888, the highest level since March 2015, according to Baker Hughes data. 9, according to government data.

The United States in November granted exemptions to eight countries, allowing them to import some Iranian crude for another 180 days.

Despite today's sharp downward trend, some analysts think that prices are set to regain ground over the next month, based on the trends from past such oil price slumps. The details would be discussed at the meeting of the organization scheduled for December 6 in Vienna. The Cboe/Nymex Oil Volatility Index fell more than 3 percent on Friday, declining for a third day.

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