Figures issued in early December by the American Petroleum Institute (API) showed that US crude oil stocks rose by 3.7 million barrels to 287.4 million barrels in the week ending 29 November. The unexpected increase was attributed to a 512,000 barrel-a-day (b/d) jump in US imports to 9.8 million b/d.

Market attention continued to focus on Iraq. The oil price dropped after Baghdad said that it would continue to export crude, even if the UN oil-for-food programme was extended for just two weeks – as proposed by the US – compared with the normal six months. Iraq has previously halted exports in response to any attempts to reduce the 180-day extension.

Having allowed UN inspectors back and granted them access to weapons sites, the next test of Baghdad’s compliance was expected to come on 7 December, when it was due to issue a statement on its arms programme to the UN.