Output cut on the cards amid demand fears

15 October 2001

OPEC ministers are considering a cut in production to defend the oil price, which has remained below the organisation's $22 a barrel target floor since 25 September. Unexpectedly sharp rises in US gasoline and crude reserves and the worsening global economy have created a poor demand picture, putting downward pressure on prices.

At its 26 September meeting, the organisation elected to keep output steady while it waited for its cut of 1 million barrels a day (b/d), effective from 1 September, to be felt in the market. OPEC ministers were scheduled to meet again on 14 November, but left themselves the option of taking action through telephone consultations to be held at their own discretion. There has been talk of a cut before the organisation's planned 14 November meeting.

But there are fears that defending the price could further contribute to global economic weakness, causing even greater harm to demand. Oil inventories rose by 3.42 million barrels in the week ending 28 September, according to data released by the American Petroleum Institute (API) on 2 October. Gasoline stocks also rose by 4.78 million barrels, API data showed. Crude inventories are now about 20 million barrels stronger than at the same time in 2000, showing that supply was greater than expected before the September OPEC cut could take effect.

Prices have settled after the impact of the attacks on the US sent them soaring to more than $30 a barrel and are giving an accurate long-term picture of poor demand. On 2 October, the price of OPEC's basket of crudes stood at $20.44 a barrel. Analysts say that instability is expected to define the market for most of the fourth quarter.

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