By PABLO GORONDIAssociated Press
The price of oil fell below $93 a barrel Friday after OPEC decided to stick to its current production target and figures showed crude supplies are brimming.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for July delivery was down 78 cents to $92.83 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Thursday, the Nymex contract rose 48 cents to close at $93.61 a barrel.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said Friday it would keep its official output target of 30 million barrels a day.
At the end of a meeting at its headquarters in Vienna, OPEC said it "reviewed recent oil market developments ... noting that the relative steadiness of prices during 2013 to-date was an indication that the market was adequately supplied, the periodic price fluctuations being a reflection of geopolitical tensions."
For many months, OPEC has been exceeding its voluntary output total of 30 million barrels a day by at least 400,000 barrels a day, adding to the abundance of global supplies.
"Despite showing noticeably better discipline this year, OPEC is nonetheless continuing to produce more than agreed, and indeed more than the market really needs," said analysts at Commerzbank in Frankfurt. "In view of the current oversupply and in the absence of any positive surprises from OPEC, oil prices are likely to remain under pressure."
Julian Jessop, an analyst with Capital Markets, said that "the bigger picture is that the cartel now ranks no higher than a distant fourth in the list of factors determining global oil prices."
Also weighing on prices was fresh data from the European Union showing that unemployment in the 17 countries that use the euro rose to 12.2 percent in April, the highest level since the shared currency was introduced in 1999 and up from the previous record of 12.1 percent in March.
The U.S. economy, meanwhile, grew at a modest 2.4 percent annual rate from January through March, slightly slower than initially estimated. However, consumer spending was stronger than first thought, roaring ahead at a 3.4 percent annual rate. That's the fastest spending growth in more than two years.
But the U.S. Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said the nation's supply of oil rose last week by 3 million barrels to 397.6 million barrels, the highest level since the government started collecting the data in 1978. Separately, the American Petroleum Institute said crude oil stocks rose by 4.4 million barrels to 395.1 million barrels.
Brent crude, a benchmark for many international oil varieties, was down 70 cents to $101.49 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
- Wholesale gasoline fell 1.15 cents to $2.7958 a gallon.
- Heating oil shed 1.77 cents to $2.8265 per gallon.
- Natural gas lost 0.7 cent to $4.016 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.
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