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Oil weakens on fears Irma could dent U.S. demand

Reuters  |  LONDON 

By Ron Bousso and Fanny Potkin

(Reuters) - prices edged lower on Monday on concerns that Hurricane Irma's pounding of heavily populated areas of could dent demand in the world's top consuming nation.

Losses were capped by weekend talks between Saudi Arabia's minister and counterparts over a possible extension to a pact to cut supplies beyond next March.

Brent crude futures for November delivery were down 33 cents at $53.45 a barrel while benchmark U.S. West Texas intermediate crude advanced by 22 cents to $47.70.

Hurricane Irma knocked out power to nearly four million homes and businesses on Sunday after millions were told to evacuate ahead of the storm.

"We believe that Irma will have a negative impact on demand but not on production or processing," Goldman Sachs analysts said in a note.

Irma is forecast to weaken to a tropical storm over northern or southern Georgia later on Monday.

It comes on the heels of Hurricane Harvey, which struck the U.S. hub of Texas two weeks ago, knocking out a quarter of the nation's refineries, many of which are now restarting operations.

The two hurricanes are expected to inflict a "bearish shock" on balances in September of about 600,000 barrels per day (bpd), Goldman said.

The longer-term focus, however, was on discussions over a possible extension to the 15-month production pact between members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)and non-OPEC producers including Russia and Kazakhstan. The deal aims to curb an supply glut that has weighed on crude prices for more than three years.

The deal agreed late last year to reduce output by about 1.8 million bpd until March 2018 helped to keep prices as high as $58 a barrel in January, but they have since sagged as stocks have not fallen as quickly as expected.

Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih met his Venezuelan and Kazakh counterparts at the weekend to discuss an extension of the deal by at least three months, the Saudi energy ministry said.

Venezuela Energy Minister Eulogio del Pino said on Friday that inventories remain too high and urged producers to look at exemptions granted to countries such as Libya and Nigeria and their effect on the market.

Elsewhere, Iran will reach an production rate of 4.5 million bpd within five years, a senior Iranian industry official said on Sunday. Iran has been producing about 3.8 million bpd in recent months.

(Additional reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by David Goodman)

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, September 11 2017. 15:48 IST