OPEC Maintains Oil Quota as Price Decline Brings Compromise
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries kept its production ceiling unchanged, as concern that global growth is shrinking outweighed calls by some members for supply cuts to stem sliding prices.
The 12-member group agreed to leave the limit at 30 million barrels a day, Youcef Yousfi, Algeria’s Minister of Energy and Mines, said today in Vienna at the end of the producer group’s first meeting of the year. Venezuela, Angola and Ecuador were among nations that backed keeping the quota unchanged prior to the decision. Saudi Arabia, whose minister, Ali al-Naimi, had said this week he might favor a production increase, said he was “happy” with today’s outcome.
.OPEC has been exceeding its output limit this year as the prospect of sanctions against Iran, the group’s second-largest member, pushed Brent oil in March to the highest level since July 2008. Since then, concern that Europe’s debt crisis will erode fuel demand has driven the crude back below $100 a barrel, a level favored by Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Libya.
“This doesn’t hide the elephant in the room, which is ultimately the upcoming full implementation of sanctions on Iranian oil,” said Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity- markets strategy at BNP Paribas SA in London. “These in turn imply that actual production from the cartel will continue to remain above the official ceiling.”
Brent futures for August settlement traded at $97.12 a barrel at 8:02 p.m. on the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London, down about 24 percent from this year’s high of $128.40.