Oil holds a narrow range as Opec meeting looms

TOKYO: Oil prices were little changed in early Asian trade on Friday, as investors eyed a key Opec meeting in Vienna and Saudi Arabia and Russia, architects of a producer deal to cut output, indicated they want production to rise.

Brent crude was down 3 cents at $ 75.91 a barrel by 0104 GMT, after settling down 80 cents the session before.

US West Texas Intermediate crude was up 6 cents, or 0.1 per cent, at $ 66.95 a barrel, having settled up 25 cents. It touched a two-week high of $ 67.16 on Thursday.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers meet in Vienna on June 22-23 to decide whether a pact curbing output needs to be adjusted in order to rein in oil prices that topped $ 80 a barrel last month.

Brent and WTI hit 3.5-year highs in May but have since drifted lower, indicating investors expect the market to soon become better supplied as US crude production rises and as Opec and its allies look poised to increase output.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said after talks with Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih in Moscow that both nations “in principle” supported the gradual exit from the deal.

“We in general support this … but specifics we will discuss with the ministers in a week,” Novak said, adding that one option would involve gradually hiking output by 1.5 million bpd, possibly starting from July 1.

Saudi’s Falih did not offer specific guidance on what any deal in Vienna could look like. But he said: “We will see where we go, but I think we’ll come to an agreement that satisfies, most importantly, the market.”