Oil prices have steadied after crossing US$ 45 - a surge of over US$ 2. New York's light sweet crude for delivery in February fell to close at $US 45.43 per barrel, in London, the price of Brent North Sea crude oil for delivery in February rose to $US 43.18. Various factors seem to have triggered this weeks price hike, including a reported labour dispute in Venezuela, a larger than expected draw in US natural gas inventories, fresh concern over winter fuel shortages.
Another factor contributing to the rise is market estimates that OPEC producers may cut output again due to meet at their Vienna headquarters on January 30 to review output. In the month of December last year, OPEC had agreed in Cairo to reduce production by one million bpd from the start of 2005 to bring the cartel closer to its official output ceiling of 27 million barrels. At that time OPEC ministers had indicated a readiness to reduce output again if needed to mop up excess supply in anticipation of a seasonal down-turn in demand as the northern hemisphere winter ends.