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Business

OPEC ministers agree not to curb oil output

At their semi-annual meeting, ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed not to change their current policy of unconstrained output. They seek to hurt shale producers further.

The OPEC oil producers' cartel has decided to maintain its official output target at 30 million barrels per day, Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said on Friday. "The ceiling is the same. You will be surprised how amicable the meeting was," Naimi told reporters following a meeting of the 12-nation body that pumps about one third of the world's oil.

The decision comes despite growing warnings of a second slump in prices as some members such as Iran look to ramp up exports.

Ahead of the meeting, OPEC officials had hinted they would rather continue their policy to preserve market share and pressure high-cost US shale producers, knowing that shale and deep-water oil producers needed much higher crude prices to make their operations profitable again.

The global oil market collapsed by around 60 percent between 2014 and late January 2015. But since then, it has recovered somewhat, lifted by a brighter outlook for the global economy and rising energy demand.

Status quo not questioned

But while the ministers may not be willing to play into the hands of oil producers in the US, they need to start thinking about how to cope with some member nations' desire to increase their own output.

After all, the market could be further saturated with oil from Iran, should Western sanctions against that country be lifted after a nuclear deal with world powers. Libya is also preparing to reopen the taps after years of diminished production.

Notably absent from this week's agenda were efforts to push for output constraints - even from hawks such as Venezuela, which faces deepening budget woes at prices below $100 per barrel.

At the same time, the US tight oil industry has proven to be more resilient than many had expected, with falling costs helping sustain the revolution and possibly setting up another downward spiral.

hg/cjc (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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