Investing.com - Crude oil prices gained in early Asia on Wednesday despite asharp build in industry-estimated U.S. crude oil stocks.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, WTI crude for January delivery reversed territory late in the session to close at $41.78, up 0.13 or 0.31% on the day. With the slight gains, WTI crude halted a three-day losing streak.
The American Petroleum Institute said that crude stocks rose 1.6 million barrels last week, well above the fall of 1.2 million barrels seen.
Separately, a government report on Wednesday could show that U.S. inventories fell by 1.2 million barrels for the week ending on November 27. Last week, U.S. crude stockpiles rose for the ninth straight week to remain at their highest level in at least the last 80 years.
Overnight, crude futures were relatively flat in cautious trade, ahead of the release of the American Petroleum Institute's weekly inventory report at the close of trading on Tuesday evening and a highly anticipated OPEC meeting at week's end.
U.S. crude futures are coming off a tough month in November when they slumped nearly 10%, amid few signals of declining supply in the near-term. In late-November, the front month contract for WTI crude slid below $39 a barrel, lingering near its lowest level since the height of the Financial Crisis.
On the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), Brent crude for January delivery wavered between $44.04 and $45.17 a barrel, before closing at $44.40, down 0.22 or 0.49% on the session. North Sea brent futures also fell sharply last month testing the $43 level.
Energy traders are mostly hesitant to make any major moves before Friday's critical OPEC meeting in Vienna, one with potential to be the most contentious in recent memory. While most analysts do not expect the cartel will slash production in order to support dwindling prices, Saudi Arabia is facing increasing pressure to rein in output from near-record highs.
In spite of considerable reductions in October, the kingdom still pumped more than 10.1 million barrels per day, remaining near record monthly highs from the third quarter.
Crude prices have plummeted more than 40% over the last year since OPEC surprisingly left its production ceiling above 30 million barrels per day last November in an effort to defend its market share by squeezing out U.S. shale producers. A host of smaller OPEC members, including Venezuela, Nigeria and Libya, have seen their oil-dependent economies tank, as the price of crude has hovered near multi-year lows for the majority of the year. Last month, Venezuelan officials suggested that crude prices could hit $25 a barrel unless OPEC curbs production.
The nations could receive an ally in Iran, which has urged Saudi Arabia to lower its production below 10 million barrels per day to spur recovery. Still, Iran energy minister Bijan Namdar Zaganeh said late last month that he does not expect OPEC to alter its output policy at the meeting.
Iran could increase its output by as much as 500,000 bpd in early 2016 and by 1 million bpd by the end of the year, as economic sanctions against the Gulf State continue to ease following the completion of its comprehensive nuclear deal with Western powers.
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