Longest oil slump in 4 years signals growing worldwide surplus

Oil notched its longest losing streak in four years as expanding U.S. stockpiles overshadowed supply concerns from the Persian Gulf to Latin America.

Futures fell as much as 1.4 percent in New York on Thursday, extending the decline to a ninth day. The last time crude registered such a downtrend was mid 2014. American oil inventories grew at more than twice the anticipated pace last week, a government report showed on Wednesday. That supply overhang trumped indications OPEC may discuss production cuts as soon as this weekend.

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Crude has tumbled 20 percent since touching a four-year high last month as apprehension over sanctions targeting Iranian oil exports evaporated, in part because of exemptions handed to some of the Islamic Republic's biggest customers. President Donald Trump said the waivers were intended to soften the blow to global crude markets.

"Most of this selling pressure is related to the removal of fears concerning tight supplies from the drop in Iranian exports and the granting of those temporary waivers," said Gene McGillian, a senior analyst and broker at Tradition Energy.

Consultant FGE estimated the waivers granted to China, India and six other nations will allow Iran to continue shipping 1.2 million to 1.7 million barrels a day, more than previously expected.

"OPEC and Russia may use cuts to support prices at $70 a barrel," said Ole Sloth Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank in Copenhagen. "But the U.S. sanctions waivers could prevent prices from breaking above $80."

West Texas Intermediate crude for December delivery declined 47 cents to $61.20 a barrel at 10:54 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Total volume traded was about 45 percent above the 100-day average.

Brent futures for January settlement slipped 44 cents to $71.63 on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The global benchmark crude traded at a $10.23 premium to WTI for the same month.

At a gathering scheduled for this weekend in Abu Dhabi, OPEC and allied producers will discuss scenarios including a second production U-turn that would curb output next year, according to delegates. Pressure from the U.S. to lower prices probably will decrease now that the nation's midterm elections are over, Saxo Bank's Hansen said.

Producers including Saudi Arabia and Russia had opened the taps earlier this year following unprecedented political pressure from Trump. After meeting with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak in Moscow, Lukoil PJSC First Vice President Ravil Maganov said Thursday that a resumption of cuts couldn't be ruled out, but that they didn't discuss specific figures.

Last week's increase in U.S. crude inventories was the seventh week of gains, the longest stretch since early March, according to Energy Information Administration data. Domestic production surged to a record 11.6 million barrels a day, while stockpiles at the key storage hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, climbed by 2.42 million barrels.

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