Oil prices unchanged as Saudi readies for OPEC
Oil prices were flat Tuesday as Saudi Arabia's oil minister was due to arrive in Vienna ahead of a key OPEC meeting on crude output levels.
Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi was the first minister scheduled to arrive in the Austrian capital before Friday's meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
The cartel is widely expected to maintain high output levels despite a global supply glut, with OPEC kingpin Saudi keen to hold onto market share in the face of fierce competition from US shale oil production.
Around 1230 GMT, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for delivery in January stood at $41.65 a barrel, unchanged from the close on Monday.
Brent North Sea crude for January was also unchanged at $44.61 a barrel.
"Crude prices are likely to stay sideways ahead of the OPEC meeting, where Iran is expected to announce plans to expand output," said Bernard Aw, market strategist at IG Markets in Singapore.
Iran, one of a dozen OPEC members, is expected to increase its oil exports after crippling Western sanctions are lifted under a deal reached with major world powers in July to curb its nuclear programme.
The sanctions have restricted Iranian oil shipments and analysts say their return to the market will further add to the crude oversupply.
Iran's deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi said last week his country expects the deal to come into force in early January, when Tehran will have implemented its commitments.
Oil prices have been in retreat from levels above $100 a barrel reached in mid-2014.
Prices were unchanged Tuesday also after a key measure of China's manufacturing activity dropped to its weakest level in more than three years in November, further underlining weaknesses in the world's top energy consumer, traders said.
© 2015 AFP