OPEC, Russia prepared to raise output to lower oil prices amid US pressure

Saudi Arabia and Russia are discussing raising OPEC and non-OPEC oil production by some 1 million barrels a day, sources said, weeks after US President Donald Trump complained about artificially high prices, reports Reuters.

Riyadh and Moscow are prepared to ease output cuts to calm consumer worries about supply adequacy, their energy ministers said on Friday, with Saudi Arabia’s Khalid al-Falih adding that any such move would be gradual so as not to shock the market.

Raising production would ease 17 months of strict supply curbs amid concerns that a price rally has gone too far, with oil having hit its highest since late 2014 at $80.50 a barrel this month.

Trump tweeted last month that OPEC had “artificially” boosted oil prices.

“We were in the meeting in Jeddah, when we read the tweet,” OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo said, referring to a meeting in Saudi Arabia on April 20.

“I think I was prodded by his excellency Khalid Al-Falih that probably there was a need for us to respond. We in OPEC always pride ourselves as friends of the United States,” Barkindo told a panel with the Saudi and Russian energy ministers in St. Petersburg at Russia’s main economic forum.

OPEC officials said by “the need to respond” Barkindo was referring to a tweet he sent the same day, rather than the need to act.

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies led by Russia have agreed to curb output by about 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) through 2018 to reduce global stocks, but the inventory overhang is now near OPEC’s target.

In April, pact participants cut production by 52 percent more than required, with falling output from crisis-hit Venezuela helping OPEC deliver a bigger reduction than intended.

Sources familiar with the matter said an increase of about 1 million bpd would lower compliance to 100 percent of the agreed level.

Barkindo also said it was not unusual for the United States to put pressure on OPEC as some US energy secretaries had asked the producer group to help lower prices in the past.

Oil prices fell more than 2 percent towards $77 a barrel on Friday as Saudi Arabia and Russia said they were ready to ease supply curbs.

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