posted at 18:00
Author Name: Ben Perry
OPEC set for pivotal decision on oil output amount
The price of US benchmark oil fell to a four-year low Wednesday on growing expectations that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will not take significant action in the Austrian capital, home to the 12-nation cartel that pumps out about a third of the world's crude. Thursday's OPEC meeting is the most significant in recent years after crude futures have sunk by more than 30 percent since June on plentiful oil supplies, a strong dollar and worries about stalling energy demand in a weak global economy. "I am confident that OPEC is capable of taking a very unified position," Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi told reporters. OPEC pumped 30.6 million oil barrels per day last month, above its 30 million bpd target according to the International Energy Agency, which advises countries on energy policy. "If OPEC were to trim the production limit, it will therefore concede more market share to shale oil producers, so it is not in the best interest of its members in the long term." Ahead of the OPEC meeting, the world's top oil producer Saudi Arabia cut charges for US customers in a move seen as a bid to maintain its market share amid increasing competition from oil extracted from shale rock in the United States. OPEC has meanwhile insisted that it is not solely up to the cartel to tackle the oversupply that is sending crude prices crashing, in turn benefitting consumers at the petrol pumps but hurting oil companies' incomes. On Wednesday, the price of US oil benchmark West Texas Intermediate for delivery in January fell 40 cents to $73.69 a barrel - its lowest closing price since September 2010.

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