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Why This OPEC Meeting Could Be Different

If you aren't following the oil story, maybe you should be.

AP

I mean, sure, you probably know that oil prices are higher, and that you're paying more at the pumps. But the importance of Thursday's OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) meeting can't be understated.

Usually, a bunch of oil ministers get together, they talk a bit about output, they talk about supply, and they (usually) decide not to hike production.

But this OPEC meeting could be completely different.

For starters, we're still not sure who's going from Iran and Libya.

"Why should we care about who is going from Iran?," you ask. Well, Iran is the second largest oil producer in the OPEC cartel, and when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently declared himself the temporary oil minister of the country, people weren't happy. (He has since retracted the move).

Apart from the politics of who is going and why, oil ministers find themselves in the midst of a whole lot of volatility.

The Arab Spring is here to stay and looks set to have an impact on all countries in the MENA region.

There have been production cuts in Libya (gaps in the oil market that OPEC hasn't stepped in to fill), and, given that OPEC ministers actually are going to talk about raising oil output for the first time in four years, it seems that they slowly, but surely, are getting ready to respond to an environment of higher oil prices and lower growth.

This is important.

Especially as the IEA (the International Energy Agency) seems to be signalling the same readiness to act, given that it recently asked oil producers to boost supplies...something it usually never does.

Oil Outlook

Harry Tchilinguirian, head of Commodity Markets Strategy from BNP Paribas told me he thinks we'll move sideways on oil prices for some time as the upside and the downside risks balance eachother out.

He points out that the particular quality of Libyan oil isn't easy to replace, and even if the turmoil in Libya were to end today, it still will take a long time to access the damage to infrastructure, security on the ground, not to mention who is the rightful owner of the Libyan oil.

In other words, if the Libyan crisis were to suddenly end, who do you pay for Libyan oil? Tchilinguirian has a oil price target of $110 per barrel for WTI and $115 per barrel for Brent.

When looking at oil stocks, Darren Sinden, a Senior Sales Trader from Silverwind Securities, has a 'buy' rating on BP , and says the company is in a recovery phrase.

Sinden states that one year on from the oil spil in the Gulf of Mexico, the total bill for BP could come in at less than the $20 billion they have put aside in an escrow account.

He also points out BP has been raising cash through disposals, and there is talk of the company re-instating its share buyback program.

Sinden says BP looks undervalued, and has a near-term price target of 5 pounds per share.

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