The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will uphold its target of 24.845 million barrels a day when it meets in Vienna on March 17, according to 42 of 44 analysts surveyed this week. Shokri Ghanem, chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corp. said on March 9 that “no new decision is expected,” while Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi said in January that oil between $70 and $80 is “almost perfect.”
The producer group is unlikely to reduce quotas that it set at the end of 2008 as long as members are pumping more than the agreed limits, nor raise them without stronger signs that demand will keep improving, the analysts said. Oil inventories have risen again this year, after being whittled down in 2009 by OPEC’s record production cuts.
“OPEC is pretty satisfied with how stable the price is,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy analyst at the Baker Institute and associate director of the Rice Energy Program in Houston. “They’re where they want to be. Compliance with quotas is not as good as it could be so I’d expect some jaw-boning about that.”
The group announced the biggest production cuts in its 50- year history at the end of 2008 as demand crumbled because of the global recession. Those cutbacks, led by Saudi Arabia, made oil prices rose to 78 percent last year. Oil futures made further gains this year, exceeding $80 a barrel in New York, driven by a recovery in the broader economy, even as OPEC’s oil output rose for a sixth consecutive month in February.