OPEC Plans Informal Talks Next Month, Sees Oil Dip Temporary

Updated on
  • Oil prices set to increase in late 2016 as demand recovers
  • Qatar minister says price slide partly linked to Brexit vote

Informal Talks: What Does OPEC Hope to Achieve?

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will hold informal talks at a conference in Algiers next month and considers the recent decline in oil prices temporary, the group’s president said Monday.

“Expectation of higher crude oil demand in the third and fourth quarters of 2016, coupled with decrease in availability, is leading the analysts to conclude that the current bear market is only temporary” and prices will increase later this year, Mohammed Al Sada, Qatar’s energy minister and holder of OPEC’s rotating presidency, said in a statement on the group’s website. Members constantly discuss ways to stabilize the market, he said.

Oil tumbled into a bear market last week, ending a recovery that saw prices almost double from a 12-year low in February. This keeps pressure on many member countries that are still unable to balance their budgets. Al Sada’s comments indicate OPEC is concerned by the renewed slide in prices, according to Robin Mills, chief executive officer of consultant Qamar Energy.

“If they’re going to talk about anything that’s worth announcing to the market, it would have to be an idea like the previously proposed freeze in oil production,” Mills said by phone from Dubai. “I don’t hold much credence in that coming about, but they could be in a better condition to agree on a freeze by the end of the year than they have been.”

West Texas Intermediate crude rose to the highest level in almost two weeks, gaining as much as 2.8 percent to $42.97 a barrel as of 10:26 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

To read about analysts’ expectations for oil prices next year, click here.

OPEC ministers, who rejected a proposal to adopt a new output ceiling when they last met in June, had always planned to continue discussions at the International Energy Forum Ministerial Meeting in Algeria next month, two delegates from the group said Friday. Members have no specific plans to renew the failed April agreement with non-members to freeze oil production, the said.

OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo met with Wilson Pastor, Ecuador’s OPEC governor, in Vienna on Aug. 5 to discuss issues including planning for the IEF, which runs from Sept. 26 to 28, according to a statement on the group’s website. Venezuela’s Oil Minister Eulogio del Pino has also spoken with Barkindo about holding a meeting with non-member countries, President Nicolas Maduro said in a national address last week.

Russian Position

Russia sees no need for renewing discussion of an oil-output freeze at current crude prices, while leaving open the possibility for the future, Energy Minister Alexander Novak told journalists in Moscow Monday. Novak didn’t rule out speaking with his counterparts from OPEC member states in Algiers.

Russia, Saudi Arabia and other major oil exporters met in Doha in April in a bid to stabilize global markets by putting caps on output. The effort collapsed after Saudi Arabia demanded that rival Iran be a part of the agreement. At the time, Iran had ruled out any limits on its output as it ramped up production after the lifting of international sanctions.

Iran will probably raise production to pre-sanctions levels by the end of the year, while Saudi Arabia will also be selling more crude as domestic use of fuel during the country’s summer months slows, Mills said.

Iran is pumping about 3.8 million barrels of crude a day and exporting about 2 million of that, Mohsen Ghamsari, director of international affairs at National Iranian Oil Co., said in an interview in Tehran last month. That’s allowed it to return to about 80 percent of the market share it had before the restrictions, he said.

The latest drop in prices won’t last and reflects weaker refining margins, a surplus of refined products, plus the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union and its impact on the financial markets, Al Sada said.

(Updates with details of Barkindo-Pastor meeting in seventh paragraph.)
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