London, March 22 (Reuters): Oil prices eased on Tuesday, but within reach of the record high over $57, as Opec weighed raising supply again in a bid to meet robust world demand and stem this year's rally.
US crude traded down 31 cents to $57.15 a barrel, just 45 cents below the peak of $57.60 struck last Thursday. London's Brent crude eased 17 cents to $55.48 a barrel.
Oil prices are up 32 per cent since the end of 2004 on worries that strong demand growth, especially in emerging Asian economies and the United States, will strain global production, which is almost at its limits.
The Opec producers' cartel, which makes up more than half of the world's oil exports, is considering raising supplies by another 500,000 barrels per day (BPD), less than a week after it agreed to an increase of the same volume with immediate effect.
A second output boost would bring the group's official production ceiling to 28 million BPD, one-third of global demand for this year which was projected at 84 million BPD. Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi said on Monday Opec could decide any time to add the extra barrels.
'If Opec is willing to step up to the plate and supply more oil you would expect that to cap prices, but last week's move didn't do anything at all ' prices shot up,' said David de Garis, Melbourne-based senior economist at ANZ Investment Bank.
'The market is continuing to push up oil because the technical view is that oil is headed toward $60, so people are trading towards that sort of level.'