Saudi al-Falih, US Iran Envoy Meet Ahead Of OPEC Summit

Saudi al-Falih, US Iran Envoy Meet Ahead Of OPEC Summit

A pumpjack operates above an oil well at night in the Bakken Formation on the outskirts of Williston, North Dakota, U.S., on Thursday, March 8, 2018.

Oil prices fell along with weak stock markets on Thursday, but trading was tepid ahead of a meeting by producer group OPEC that is expected to result in a supply cut aimed at draining a glut that has pulled down crude prices by 30 percent since October.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $52.64 per barrel, down 61 cents, or 1.1%, from their last close.

While the topic of the Saudi-U.S. meeting was not immediately clear, it's probably safe to assume that the energy minister of OPEC's de facto leader and the U.S. official for Iran discussed the current and future impact of the U.S. sanctions on Iran on the global oil market.

After the US granted waivers to eight of Iran's key oil buyers to continue importing Iranian oil at reduced volumes at least until early May 2019, Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members, as well as their key partner in the non-OPEC group, Russia, are now considering a new cut and a U-turn from their pump-to-compensate-for-Iran policy that started in June.

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia produced a record 11.3 million barrels per day (bpd) in November, adding to the swelling glut.

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Oil output from the world's biggest producers - OPEC, Russia and the United States - has increased by a 3.3 million bpd since the end of 2017, to 56.38 million bpd, meeting nearly 60 percent of global consumption. Washington and Beijing announced a 90-day truce last weekend, during which neither side will further increase punitive import tariffs.

Russia's second-largest oil producer, Lukoil PJSC, is ready to comply with any request from the Kremlin but hopes output cuts won't be necessary, said Chief Executive Officer Vagit Alekperov.

Iran is suffering both as a result of lower prices and a decline in its oil exports because of the United States sanctions.

In Asian powerhouse Japan, the economy is expected to have contracted more again in the third quarter, with the slowdown deepening, a poll showed on Wednesday, with Q3 annualised GDP expected to fall by 1.9%. An oil price around $60 suits the needs of producers and consumers and it should remain at that level in January, he said.

Bank of America said it expected Brent and WTI prices to average $70 and $59 per barrel respectively in 2019.

Brent and WTI have averaged $72.80 and $66.10 per barrel so far this year.

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