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Iraq hints OPEC to stabilise output
by Staff Writers
Vienna (AFP) May 30, 2013

Iraq indicated Thursday that OPEC should maintain its oil production ceiling at this week's output meeting in Vienna, arguing it was wary of damaging the fragile global economy by cutting output which would raise crude prices.

"In general, OPEC targets -- in making the market well supplied -- are met these days and we do not want to cause a shock to the market which will affect the global economy," Iraqi Oil Minister Abdulkarim al-Luaybi told reporters in the Austrian capital, on the eve of the meeting.

He added that the oil market had been in a "stable" state in recent weeks, despite Wednesday's overnight slide that was rooted in worries about weak worldwide energy demand, particularly from China.

"The current market is in stable condition and this had been reflected in prices which show a good level of stability in the past few months."

Angolan Oil Minister Jose Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos also declared that the cartel should maintain the status quo. When asked if there is any need for a change he replied: "I don't think so."

Vasconcelos added: "The market is great, it's fine. Production is okay, the (oil) price is okay."

Most ministers from governments in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries have expressed satisfaction with current benchmark Brent crude price of about $100 a barrel.

While the cartel's members, which comprise nations from the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, boost their incomes the higher crude prices grow, they are mindful of the fact that oil deemed too expensive risks crippling global growth.

The 12-nation Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) accounts for some 35 percent of global oil, but its importance has been overshadowed in recent times by the prospect of booming shale production in the United States.

Questioned by journalists about the prospect of a sharp increase in US shale oil and gas output, and its overall impact on the market, Luaybi added:

"Although it has some impact, it's not a significant impact on oil production or exports, and as you all might notice OPEC countries are all producing more oil than the agreed quota ceiling."

Most analysts expect OPEC will leave its collective oil production ceiling at 30 million barrels per day (mbpd), where it has stood since the end of 2011, despite actual output running above this.

Iran and Venezuela have already declared that they would be open to a production cut to maintain and even boost crude price levels.

However, Kuwait's OPEC governor Siham Abdulrazzak Razzouqi said she saw no calls for the group to change production levels. The United Arab Emirates has also said that current price levels are "fair" and did not hurt growth.

OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia has already indicated that the kingdom would prefer the cartel to maintain the ceiling in line with market expectations.

Oil minister Ali al-Naimi, who arrived in Vienna on Tuesday, told Saudi state news agency SPA that "international oil market is stable and balanced", adding that "prices are at a level suitable for producing and consuming nations, and to the oil industry".

In late afternoon deals, London's Brent North Sea crude for delivery in July edged 23 cents higher to $102.66 a barrel, steadying after the previous day's sharp losses on the eve of OPEC's latest decision.

"I expect OPEC to leave its quota on hold this week," Capital Economics analyst Julian Jessop told AFP.

"The next move will probably be a cut as demand remains weak and non-OPEC supply ample. This might prevent prices from falling as far as they would otherwise have done but the fundamentals (of supply and demand) will remain soft and crude (prices) will fall further."


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