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Saudi Arabia's oil minister publicly knocked talk of an OPEC "price war" but did little in the way of clarifying what the cartel will do about falling prices.
Ali al-Naimi, speaking in Mexico, said Saudi oil policy is not changing and has been stable for decades. He said the market, not Saudi Arabia, sets prices, and that the kingdom is doing what it can with other producers to ensure stability, according to Reuters.
The oil market has become laser focused on the Nov. 27 OPEC meeting, and there is speculation its much-divided members will have to agree to cut production if they want to see the roughly 30 percent decline in prices start to reverse.
Oil prices continued to grind lower Wednesday, with Brent crude futures falling further after Naimi spoke, breaking $80 per barrel for the first time since September, 2010. Brent ended the day at $80.38, down 1.6 percent, and U.S. West Texas Intermediate was also lower, falling more than 1 percent to $77.18 per barrel.
"He seems to be really sitting on the fence. 'We do not set the oil price, the market sets the oil price,' which to me implies they're leaving it to market forces and they're waiting for non-OPEC producers to cut production or balance the market," said Dominic Haywood, products and crude analyst with Energy Aspects. Haywood said, however, from Naimi's remarks it is clear only that OPEC is discussing production cuts but does not mean it will act on them.