OPEC is to meet soon to discuss cutting output quotas in another effort to boost oil prices. GCC ministers were to meet in Jeddah on 4 March to discuss strategy prior to the meeting. OPEC ministers are scheduled to meet in Geneva on 25 March.

Trading on 1 March produced a $0.15 rise in April Brent blend crude to $13.50 a barrel, marking another slight firming of prices. But the market remains open to fluctuations and traders are adopting a very cautious approach. Signs that prices are firming are linked to technical factors and winter demand for heavy fuel oil, analysts say. Markets also rose on 28 February in response to the massacre of Palestinians in Hebron.

Lower crude oil prices are hitting producers. Royal Dutch/Shell produced results in late February which show a 2 per cent fall in net income in 1993 to £3,000 million ($4,440 million). Fourth-quarter income fell by 28 per cent compared with the corresponding period of 1992. Shell says the effect of lower crude prices was offset by higher natural gas sales. It notes that Brent blent prices averaged $17 a barrel in 1993, compared with $19.30 in 1992.