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OPEC Agrees to Cut Oil Output
By BRUCE STANLEY .c The Associated Press
LONDON (AP) - OPEC oil ministers agreed formally Wednesday to cut crude oil output by 1 million barrels a day, or 4 percent of their official target level.
The decision by all 11 members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is aimed at supporting crude prices at around $25 a barrel in the face of eroding demand in the group's key markets in the United States, Europe and Asia. The cut is to take effect Sept. 1.
Energy analysts said the move would indeed shore up prices, but not to the point of causing serious pain for consumers in importing countries.
``You will see a temporary rally,'' said Edward Ennis of SG Securities in London. ``It will not stop the decline in crude price.''
OPEC, which pumps about 40 percent of the world's oil, now has a new production target of 23.2 million barrels a day. It had already reduced its official target twice this year by a total of 2.5 million barrels a day.
Ministers announced the latest cut in output in a terse communique, after conferring privately by telephone.
They said they reached their decision after ``considering the impact of the slowing world economy on oil demand and the relatively strong build-up of oil stocks (inventories).''
The ministers would retain the option of holding ``an extraordinary meeting soon if the market warrants it,'' the communique said.
OPEC is anxious to keep its benchmark crude price at no less than $25 a barrel.
``From what the balance of supply and demand looks like for the fall, they'll achieve that,'' said Jan Stuart, head of energy research in New York for the Dutch bank ABN AMRO.
At the very least, Stuart said, OPEC will succeed in putting ``a floor'' under crude prices.
Saudi Arabia, OPEC's most powerful member, was among those backing a cut of 1 million daily barrels. So were Kuwait, Qatar and Nigeria, said a source at OPEC headquarters in Vienna, Austria.
Iran, the cartel's second-largest producer, and No. 3 Venezuela declared their support for the cut later in the day.
Crude prices have slid lower since the cartel's ministers agreed to hold output steady at their last meeting on July 3.
September contracts of North Sea Brent crude jumped 46 cents on news of OPEC's decision to a high for the day of $25.36 a barrel, in trading on the International Petroleum Exchange in London.
Light, sweet crude for September delivery rose by 49 cents to $26.80 after the announcement, before backing off to $26.73 in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
OPEC's benchmark - the average price for a so-called basket of seven crudes - was $23.46 a barrel Tuesday, the most recent day for which the group compiled information. OPEC's basket price slipped from $25 a barrel on July 6 to a low for the month of $22.64 on July 18.
Ennis of SG Securities said the risk of a further weakening in global demand remains a concern.
``The issue of demand growth doesn't disappear with a cut of 1 million barrels,'' he said, adding that he foresees the price for Brent to settle at $25 by the fourth quarter of the year.
Even with the cut in OPEC's output, Stuart suggested that prices this winter for heating oil in the United States might be lower than last year, thanks to ``plentiful'' inventories.
-- Jackson Brown (Jackson_Brown@deja.com), July 25, 2001
In the face of a looming world-wide recession this announcement is not as menacing as it sounds. Falling demand should equal things out. It will be interesting to see if OPEC can sustain these cuts.
-- Wellesley (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 25, 2001.