Crude oil futures were higher during mid-morning trade in Asia Friday amid mild bargain-hunting after falling more than $1/b fall overnight and in response to comments by Saudi Arabia’s energy minister on market balance.  At 10:57 am Singapore time (0257 GMT), front-month December ICE Brent crude futures were up 35 cents/b (0.41%) from Thursday’s settle at $84.93/b, while the NYMEX November light sweet crude contract was 45 cents/b (0.61%) higher at $74.78/b.  Both benchmark contracts fell more than $1/b during Thursday’s trading session after posting consecutive gains in previous sessions.

Saudi Arabia’s energy minister Khalid al-Falih Thursday appeared to shrug off the latest US call for OPEC to calm oil prices by raising production, saying the market was “well supplied” and producers may even be pumping more than required.  Speaking in Moscow a day after the US accused OPEC of withholding its spare production capacity from the global market, Falih described Saudi Arabia’s spare capacity as “sufficient” at around 1.3 million b/d.  The US State Department late Wednesday claimed OPEC was “not deploying” 1.42 million b/d of spare capacity, citing an estimate by the US Energy Information Administration. Saudi Arabia the same day said its output was currently averaging 10.7 million b/d and was projected to be slightly higher in November.

With a month to go before US sanctions on Iran snap back, market participants have been watching for OPEC and its allies to compensate for the loss of Iranian crude barrels, which S&P Global Platts Analytics estimates at around 1.7 million barrels.

“I think the market should be comfortable about supply,” Falih said Thursday, adding Saudi Arabia was ready to increase production once it saw customer demand for extra barrels.