SINGAPORE, Mar 14 (Reuters): Oil prices held steady today, firmly planted above $54 a barrel despite signals from OPEC exporters that they may informally increase supplies in an effort to quell this year's scorching rally.
US light crude tip-toed one cent higher to $54.44 a barrel, in sight of the $55 mark breached last week when prices ran up to $55.65, just two cents below October's all-time record of $55.67.
Soaring prices have led the OPEC producers' cartel to drop talk of a production cut for the second quarter when demand usually tails off after winter, and some members suggested at the weekend that ministers may agree to pump above official limits to cool the market despite the risk of building stockpiles.
Ministers of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries meet on March 16 in Isfahan, Iran, to review production policy and market fundamentals.
"OPEC will work for stabilising prices either by maintaining the ceiling as it is now or allowing overproduction to continue like it did in 2004," OPEC President and Kuwaiti Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahd al- Sabah said on Saturday.
OPEC production hit a 25-year high in September last year at more than 30 million barrels per day (bpd) as Iraq increased exports to a postwar peak and other members pumped close to full blast to stem a price rise that saw crude climb 70 percent at its peak.
The United Arab Emirates joined Kuwait in suggesting OPEC may relax compliance to output limits for the time being.
OPEC members Iran, Qatar, Venezuela, Algeria and Indonesia have come out in favour of keeping production steady for the time being.