Oil Consumers Wary as Some OPEC Members Target $100 Before Cairo Meeting

Oil importers are growing wary of the impact of prices near two-year highs as some OPEC members foresee a further rally to the $100-a-barrel level and Arab oil ministers gather for a meeting in Cairo.

Japan’s economy minister said today the government needs to keep an eye on climbing prices while the deputy governor of the Chinese central bank said inflation pressures are rising.

Shokri Ghanem, chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corp., was the latest OPEC official to forecast $100. Iran and Venezuela have also said that represents a fair price while Saudi Arabia, the group’s biggest exporter, said it prefers prices centered on $75, a level that oil has traded above since September.

“An issue for OPEC will obviously be prices edging higher,” said Bill Farren-Price, chief executive officer of Winchester, U.K.-based consultants Petroleum Policy Intelligence. “The issue is whether we’re in a new rally and for now the jury’s out on that. And I don’t think anyone in OPEC would disagree with that.”

Brent crude oil on London’s ICE Futures Europe exchange advanced 21 percent this year, and traded today as high as $94.74 a barrel. Crude oil futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained 15 percent so far this year.

Ghanem, Libya’s top oil official, told reporters yesterday that oil will rise to $100 a barrel. He was speaking in Cairo before a meeting tomorrow of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries. OAPEC, as the Arab group is known, includes several members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the broader 12-nation group that influences prices by setting supply quotas.

Japan, China

Japan, the world’s third-largest oil consumer after the U.S. and China, is monitoring rising crude and gasoline prices, Economy Minister Banri Kaieda said today.

“I’ve realized myself that it’s becoming very expensive,” Kaieda said at a media conference in Tokyo. “We need to keep an eye on this. It’s unlikely this trend will continue.”

Japan depends on oil imports for almost all of its needs. Five Middle Eastern OPEC nations supplied about 77 percent of Japan’s crude purchases last year, according to U.S. Energy Department data.

China’s central banks said inflation pressures are rising and inflation expectations are still strong, according to a statement posted to the People’s Bank of China website today citing Deputy Governor Hu Xiaolian.

OAPEC was established in 1968 to foster the development of the petroleum industry in member states as part of an economic integration plan among Arab countries. It contains seven nations that are also within OPEC.

June Meeting

OPEC, which accounts for 40 percent of global oil supply, decided at its last meeting in Quito, Ecuador, on Dec. 11 to maintain its production target of 24.845 million barrels a day, set in 2008. OPEC’s next formal meeting is scheduled for June 2011.

Market conditions will determine whether OPEC decides to increase production quotas next year, Ghanem said, without specifying a timeframe. Ghanem said today he’s “not happy” with OPEC’s quota compliance, urging fellow members to adhere better. Members are achieving about 60 percent of a pledged 4.2 million barrel-a-day supply reduction, he said.

Libya, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Algeria are all members of both OPEC and OAPEC.

Demand Rising

“Demand is picking up, there’s an uneven global economic recovery and while that doesn’t mean everything is plain sailing, people believe the market is moving in the right direction,” Farren-Price said.

Global oil consumption is expected to rise to a record level next year, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency and other forecasters.

Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi arrived in Cairo today without commenting to reporters. He said in Quito on Dec. 11 that oil at $70 to $80 a barrel is a good price, that the market is stable and supply and demand are in balance, while Kuwaiti Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmad al-Abdullah al-Sabah said then that he was satisfied with prices near $90.

Qatar’s Oil Minister Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah has said oil in the $80s is best for producers and consumers. Algerian Oil Minister Youcef Yousfi said at a conference in Doha on Dec. 1 that the market is in a “normal situation” and prices are likely to be stable for months.

Some Wall Street strategists expect prices will return to $100 for the first time in two years during 2011 amid rising global demand, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ola Galal in Cairo at ogalal@bloomberg.net Lananh Nguyen in London at lnguyen35@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Voss at sev@bloomberg.net

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