PARIS (AFX) – Oil stocks in the OECD countries were 2.527 billion barrels at end-November, corresponding to 51 days of consumption, down 22 million barrels from end-October and down 12 million barrels from a year earlier, the International Energy Agency said in its monthly report.

Oil inventories were down 95 million barrels on their five-year average, said the IEA, which regularly pushes for an OPEC output increase to ease pressure on inventories and the rise in oil prices.

It said low oil inventories in the US, combined with the harsh winter weather in the Northeastern US, are mainly responsible for the rising price of oil, along with sustained demand from Asia countries on the back of strong economic growth in the region.

The IEA said OPEC oil output stood at 27.95 million barrels per day in December, adding the cartel’s additional capacity is only 1.7 million b/pd, of which only 1.3 million can realistically be used.

It said the December figure was up 195,000 b/d on November, with Iraq contributing 55,000 b/d to the increase, along with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and

Net of Iraqi output, OPEC’s output stood at 26 million bpd in December, which is above the 24.5 million ceiling set by the cartel, the IAE said, adding this situation seems to have been “tacitly” tolerated in November and December.

Iraqi output stood at 1.96 million b/d in December, with exports at 1.5 million against 1.55 million the prior month, the IAE report said.

It said the decline in Iraqi oil exports was due to weather-related loading problems in the south of the country, alongside the continuing security issues despite the capture of Saddam Hussein.