Traders seem disinterested in the meeting: the market consensus is that OPEC can do little to reduce prices in the short term, as members admit. ‘OPEC isn’t playing that much of an important role as it was when it was fixing the price,’ said Shukri Ghanem, Libya’s former prime minister and the new chairman of National Oil Corporation, in late May. ‘I don’t think that the market needs more oil.’ The market was also calmed by a more conciliatory stance from Washington over relations with Tehran. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on 31 May that the White House was ready to begin talks with Iran as soon as uranium enrichment activity was suspended. Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki responded by saying that the Islamic republic was willing to hold talks with the US ‘over mutual concerns’.

The weekly release of US oil inventory data was delayed by the Memorial Day holiday on 29 May. The long weekend traditionally heralds the start of the American driving season. Gasoline data for the previous week showed supplies down by 2.8 per cent from the same point last year to 208.5 million barrels.