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Trump says he hopes OPEC will be keeping oil flows 'as is'

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump urged OPEC to continue pumping oil at current high levels on Wednesday.
  • The group of petroleum exporting nations is expected to cut output when members meet on Thursday.
OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) logo is seen on a mobile phone with the President of United States of America, Donald Trump on the background.
Omar Marques | LightRocket | Getty Images

President Donald Trump urged OPEC to continue pumping oil at current high levels on Wednesday, one day before the group of petroleum exporting nations is expected to agree to cut output.

"Hopefully OPEC will be keeping oil flows as is, not restricted. The World does not want to see, or need, higher oil prices!" Trump tweeted.

OPEC meets on Thursday in Vienna, Austria, and is reportedly aiming to remove at least 1.3 million barrels per day from the market. The group began managing crude supply in partnership with Russia and several other nations last year in order to end a punishing downturn in oil prices.

The alliance's policy of capping output has drawn Trump's ire because the president wants fuel costs to fall at U.S. gas stations. Throughout the year, Trump has publicly blamed OPEC for rising oil prices and ordered the group to take measures to reduce the cost of crude.

In June, OPEC agreed to increase output after the alliance removed more barrels from the market than it had intended. Top OPEC producer Saudi Arabia, a close U.S. ally, is responsible for most of the surge in supply since midyear. The kingdom's output reportedly surpassed a record 11 million bpd in November.

At the time OPEC agreed to hike output, the Trump administration was preparing to restore sanctions on Iran, the group's third-biggest producer. That raised concerns about supply shortages and pushed up prices throughout much of the year.

However, OPEC now expects the oil market to swing into oversupply. The group is trying to prevent a repeat of 2014, when a global crude glut crushed oil prices.

The cost of crude has collapsed more than 30 percent over the last two months, putting pressure on budgets in oil-exporting nations. Analysts say current low prices will likely cause American oil drillers to issue conservative spending plans for 2019 and potentially return less money to shareholders.

Still, Trump urged Saudi Arabia to drive prices even lower last month.

The kingdom now faces the challenge of pushing through production cuts without alienating Trump. The U.S. president has defended the Saudi leadership despite a CIA assessment that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was likely involved in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in October.

The outcry on Capitol Hill over the incident grew louder on Tuesday after CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed senators on the agency's assessment.