Saudi's Naimi says oil demand is growing, markets calm

Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said on Wednesday that oil demand is growing and markets are calm, in some of his first public comments since the price of crude rebounded from a near six-year low.

Oil prices fell by 60 percent between June and January to a post-2009 low of $45 a barrel, before international benchmark North Sea Brent recovered to around $60 a barrel this month.

The Aramco oil refinery in Dahran, Saudi Arabia.
MyLoupe | UIG | Getty Images
The Aramco oil refinery in Dahran, Saudi Arabia.

"Markets are calm now ... demand is growing," Naimi said on the sidelines of a conference in the port city of Jizan, southwest Saudi Arabia.

Naimi was the driving force behind OPEC's shift in policy at its November meeting, when the producer group decided not to cut output to support oil prices but instead to fight for market share.

The 12-country group's decision sent oil prices sinking to levels not expected even by core Gulf OPEC producers, who had blocked other members' call for a cut.

Since then, there has been mute grumbling - and sometimes public criticism - among OPEC members and oil producers outside the group that the Saudi decision might not have been the right approach.

But prices have rebounded in the past few weeks, and the Saudis may feel that vindicates their policy.

"I don't like to talk about oil because we want calmness," Naimi said when questioned by reporters.

"Why do you want to bring up the prices issue? Leave the prices alone."

A senior Gulf OPEC delegate said on Tuesday that prices around $60 a barrel are "OK for now", dismissing calls from some members to have an emergency meeting before the group's next scheduled gathering in June.

Brent was trading up 27 cents a barrel on Wednesday at $58.93.