Figures issued by the American Petroleum Institute on 26 November showed US crude stocks falling by 142,000 barrels over the previous week, confounding expectations of a stock build-up to meet additional winter demand. January-dated Brent moved up $0.40 on the news to $25.25 a barrel.

The market was also affected by statements from OPEC leaders about the need to impose more discipline, so as to prevent the market becoming seriously oversupplied in the second quarter of 2003. OPEC secretary-general Alvaro Silva said on 26 November that there was no prospect of an increase in the quota of 21.7 million barrels a day (b/d). OPEC ministers are scheduled to meet on 12 December to discuss output levels. Actual production has been running at as much as 3 million b/d above quota.

Iraqi supplies have not been interrupted, despite arguments at the UN about the conditions for approving a fresh six-month phase of the oil-for-food programme. Under pressure from Washington, the UN extended the programme for just nine days on 25 November to allow for more discussions on the terms of any new phase.