Turning to oil prices, while these have strengthened in the six months since the Conference last met, there have been continuing fluctuations. In June, at around the time of the Conference, prices were at their lowest daily levels for the year, with the Reference Basket price below US $100 a barrel throughout the month. It even fell below $90/b for three days. However, the Basket price then rallied strongly past $110/b in the middle of August. But after that, for most of the time since mid-September, it has been several dollars a barrel beneath this mark. This drop has reflected mounting concern about the global economic slowdown, the pessimistic future demand outlook and significant stockbuilds of crude in the United States of America. Such downward pressures have outweighed supply concern arising from geopolitical factors.
For its part, OPEC continues to do what it can to achieve and maintain a stable oil market. A key aspect of this is to ensure that the market remains well supplied with crude at all times, with fair and reasonable prices. For this to happen, there must be clear planning for the future, with sound investment strategies ensuring the necessary levels of production capacity in the years ahead. But the drawing-up of such strategies is impeded by uncertainties on both the demand and the supply fronts, as well as by high levels of price volatility. Clearly there are many doubts about the market outlook today. Without market stability - that is, sustainable market stability - all parties will suffer, producers and consumers alike.
At today's meeting, therefore, we shall be examining the market outlook for next year and further into the future. Our focus will be on enhancing market stability in the interests of all parties, as well as in support of steady world economic growth. However, this is not the responsibility of OPEC alone. If we all wish to benefit from a more orderly oil market, then we should all be prepared to contribute to it. This includes consumers, non-OPEC producers, oil companies and investors, in the true spirit of dialogue and cooperation.
Thank you for your attention.