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Oil hits four-year low as expectations fade for OPEC cuts

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November 27
8:50 AM 2014

Fading hopes OPEC will cut production when it meets Thursday sent oil prices tumbling to a four-year low and the world stock-market rally paused for Thanksgiving in the United States.

Gulf oil producers, led by Saudi Arabia, are expected to argue for putting off output cuts at the OPEC meeting. Some members want to prop up prices, which have dropped over a third since June. OPEC sources say action is unlikely.

Brent oil dropped by more than $1.75 in Asian and early European trading to less than $76 a barrel for the first time since September 2010.

"I think in terms of the big global economy picture, a lower oil price is a force for the good, and the meeting today is really about whether we get an extension of the move or whether we get a reversal," said National Australia Bank strategist Gavin Friend.

Europe's stock markets were up 0.2 percent, buoyed by Wednesday's signal from the European Central Bank that it is closer to government bond buying and by another record finish for Wall Street's S&P 500.

Spain's consumer price index fell more than expected and inflation fell in early readings from some German states, suggesting euro zone inflation is likely to show a further decline on Friday. Lending to euro zone households and companies also shrank last month, other data showed.

Overall, the data will put further pressure on the ECB to take more aggressive action. Speaking in Finland, ECB head Mario Draghi said the region needs a "comprehensive strategy," including government reforms.

Euro zone bond yields hit record lows [GVD/EUR] after the soft data and the euro dipped to a session low against the dollar. But currency market action centered on oil prices.

Oil-rich Norway's crown hit a three-week trough of 8.5693 crowns per euro, Russia's rouble dove again and Nigeria's naira was still feeling Tuesday's 8 percent devaluation.

OPEC WATCH

The slump in oil has made OPEC's meeting its most closely watched in decades. The bloc provides around a third of the world's oil, and the falling prices are pushing down inflation in places like Europe and hammering the economies and financial markets of big producer countries.

Decisions from the meeting are due at a news conference at 1500 GMT. Before the meeting, Iraqi Oil Minister Abel Abdel Mehdi said he saw a floor for oil prices of $65 to $70 a barrel and Algeria and Venezuela said they were willing to cut output. ID:nL9N0QC00C]

In Asia, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan advanced 0.3 percent. Shanghai shares reached a three-year high, extending their rally after China cut interest rates last week. They are up 8.2 percent so far this month.

"The rate cut clearly showed the Chinese authorities are very much keen to support theeconomy. So even though Chinese economic data has been pretty weak, investors are convinced that there will be no hard landing," said Naoki Tashiro, the president of TS ChinaResearch.

Japan's Nikkei shed 0.8 percent as the yen recovered against the dollar. The index has gained 5.1 percent this month to become the second-best performing market in the region after China. The Bank of Japan also eased policy at the end of October.

The U.S. currency fetched 117.49 yen, off last week's seven-year high of 118.98 yen. The euro traded at $1.2475 as it recovered from a low of $1.23595 on Monday.

Gold dipped for a second session, holding below $1,200 an ounce, as outflows resumed from the top bullion exchange-traded fund and traders remained cautious before a Swiss referendum on central bank bullion assets on Nov. 30.

Trading was subdued in many markets with U.S. financial markets shut for the Thanksgiving holiday.

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