Tehran and Riyadh lead price revival

19 October 2001

Leading OPEC members moved swiftly in mid-October to quell unease over continuing low oil prices. Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh flew to Riyadh on 17 October for a meeting with Saudi Petroleum & Mineral Resources Minister Ali Naimi to discuss the organisation's response to an oil price that has stayed lower than the target floor of $22 a barrel since late September. After the meeting, Naimi said an oil output cut of between 700,000-1 million barrels a day (b/d) was under consideration to prop up the weak price.

The likelihood is that OPEC will decide to cut production by late October. Naimi said he and Zanganeh had agreed upon swift consultations by telephone with other producers on the price. 'The band of $22-28 a barrel is reasonable and acceptable to almost all producers,' he said, after confirming a cut was on the cards.

Prices were boosted by a fall in US stocks despite an overall gloomy picture of oil demand. The American Petroleum Institute (API) on 16 October reported a decline in US crude stocks of more than 7 million barrels to 298.9 million barrels in the week ending 12 October. The drawdown has been attributed to a tighter supply picture as the last OPEC cut of 1 million b/d, from the start of September, and technical problems in Alaska take effect. API also reported a decrease in US gasoline stocks by 650,000 barrels, but an increase in stocks of distillate fuels and diesel.

The price of benchmark Brent crude stood at $21.52 a barrel on 17 October and OPEC's basket of crudes at $19.48 a barrel, a $0.27 fall on the previous week.

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