WASHINGTON – Oil prices dropped by nearly $1 a barrel Monday as traders focused on a halt in the dollar's decline, weak manufacturing data and expectations of mild weather next week, which sent natural gas and heating oil futures sharply lower, too.
"We're into that part of the year where it really is a weather market," said Aaron Kildow, a broker at Prudential Financial in New York. The market may have ignored OPEC on Monday, but that may not last, Kildow said.
Recent comments from key members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries suggest the cartel will push for further cuts in output when it meets Dec. 14 in Nigeria, and Kildow said he could see oil prices rising as high as $70 this winter.
Light sweet crude for January delivery fell 99 cents to settle at $62.44 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, January Brent crude futures fell $1.17 on the ICE Futures exchange to settle at $63.45 a barrel.
On Friday, a widely watched report said the nation's manufacturing sector shrunk for the first time in almost four years and that may have spooked some energy traders.
"If the manufacturing sector turns south, that might be a sign that the near-record demand we've been having might be going away," said Alaron Trading Corp.'s Phil Flynn.
Manufacturing has been growing since June 2003 — at which time crude-oil futures traded around $30 a barrel.
Flynn said stabilization of the dollar versus the euro on Monday may also contribute to the selloff. A weak dollar, the currency in which oil is priced around the globe, gives OPEC further incentive to cut production, he explained.
Other analysts suggested Monday's slide was technical in nature.
"Corrections should be short-lived ... as we believe participants have adopted a 'buy the dips' mentality," said John Kilduff, senior vice president for energy risk management at Fimat USA.
OPEC is expected to address the need to sharply accelerate oil production cuts they have implemented to stem an oversupply, seen mainly in the bulging inventories of the wealthiest industrialized nations.
Recent data from the International Energy Agency showed stocks held among the 30 Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development member countries at the end of September were 2.76 billion barrels, the highest level in almost eight years and 4.5 percent higher than a year ago.
This means OECD members have 55 days' worth of oil consumption in stock, a significant two days more than a year ago.
On Saturday, OPEC's de facto leader, Saudi Arabia Oil Minister Ali Naimi, said the cartel needed to take 100 million barrels out of the market to balance it. Kuwait's Oil Minister Sheik Ali Al Jarrah Al Sabah, who was also at a meeting of Arab oil producers in Cairo, agreed.
The figure is close to what the IEA estimates is the stock build in the third quarter of this year — the highest for the period in 14 years — and it equates to more than 1 million barrels a day.
Edmund Daukoru, Nigeria's oil minister and OPEC president, said Friday the group is likely to trim production again and he expects a cut of at least 500,000 barrels a day.
Heating oil futures fell 3.88 cents to settle at $1.8089 a gallon, unleaded gasoline edged down 1.81 cents to settle at $1.6674 while natural gas prices dipped 61.6 cents to settle at $7.806 per 1,000 cubic feet.