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Pricey oil leaves OPEC with easy job at policy meeting

OPEC headquarters in Vienna, Austria.
Patti Domm | CNBC
OPEC headquarters in Vienna, Austria.

An oil price comfortably over $100 a barrel leaves smiling OPEC ministers with an easy task to leave things as they are on output policy at their Wednesday meeting.

Brent crude has stayed above that price, the preferred level of top OPEC producer Saudi Arabia, all year and was trading near $110 on Tuesday, supported by the almost total loss of supplies from OPEC member Libya.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which pumps more than a third of the world's oil, is meeting in Vienna to agree policy for the second half of the year. Ministers have said they will leave the output target of 30 million barrels per day (bpd) unchanged, and that the market is well-supplied.

"The price is good. Brent is $110, it is not bad," said Angolan Oil Minister Jose de Vasconcelos.

Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister had yet to arrive in Vienna, but gave his unambiguous view on the meeting last month. "There is no reason for a change. Absolutely no reason," he told reporters in Seoul. "Supply is highly sufficient, demand is great and the market is fairly stable."

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Riyadh kept production little changed in May, pumping 9.705 million barrels per day, according to industry sources, supporting Naimi's view that the market did not need more.

OPEC has steered a course around the loss of over a million barrels per day of oil from Libya, as the crisis there deepened to its worst since the civil war three years ago.

Oil Minister Omar Shakmak said on his arrival in Vienna that output had fallen below 200,000 bpd, a fraction of Libya's 1.6 million bpd before the conflict. He at least welcomed the oil price.

"This is positive for the market, it's for the benefit of producers and customers alike," Shakmak said.

OPEC's sanguine view of supply will run into a seasonal rise in demand later in the year, underpinned by signs of some global economic recovery.

OPEC itself has raised the demand for its crude for the year to 29.76 million bpd, snugly inside its ceiling but the International Energy Agency, representing the United States and leading industrialized oil consumers, sees a tighter fit of around 30 million bpd.

The IEA in its May report said oil prices remained "elevated" and market balances called for a "significant rise" in OPEC production from current levels for the second half of the year.

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As well as unrest in Libya, western sanctions on Iran have also cut OPEC supplies, but output recovered in May close to the 30 million bpd target as extra barrels from Iraq and Angola helped offset the unplanned reductions.

"With the current low price volatility, OPEC has no incentive to change anything when it also has to deal with the uncertainty of Libya and Iran," said Olivier Jakob, oil analyst at Petromatrix.

--By Reuters

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