OPEC sees oil drop as short-term, expects stronger demand: delegates

Wed Jul 22, 2015 9:21am EDT
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By Alex Lawler and Rania El Gamal

LONDON/DUBAI (Reuters) - A drop in oil prices this month is likely to be short-term and will not deflect OPEC from its policy of keeping output high to defend market share, delegates from Gulf OPEC members and other nations said.

Falling Chinese stock markets and the Greek debt crisis have raised concern about demand, while the Iranian nuclear deal could lead to higher oil exports from the Islamic Republic. Benchmark Brent crude, trading below $57 a barrel on Wednesday, has fallen more than 10 percent in July.

OPEC, in a major policy shift, decided in November against cutting its production target of 30 million barrels per day (bpd) to prop up prices, seeking instead to defend market share against U.S. shale oil and other competing sources. The group reconfirmed the strategy at a meeting in June.

Kuwait's oil minister, Ali Saleh al-Omair, was quoted on Tuesday expressing confidence in the outlook, saying producer countries expected stronger global economic growth to boost prices.

And three delegates from members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries speaking this month said the price drop was unlikely to last and OPEC would not alter strategy, also citing expectations for stronger demand.

"I don't think so, it is not time for OPEC to change," said a Gulf OPEC delegate. "Demand will be more than in the first half (of the year) although there is some uncertainty about the economy. The prices will remain around $60."

A second Gulf delegate said even if prices fell slightly below $50 a barrel, as long as the drop is for a short time it is unlikely OPEC would lower its output ceiling. "Prices will not stay down forever," the delegate said.

The OPEC policy shift was led by Saudi Arabia, supported by its Gulf allies, despite calls for supply cuts from Iran and smaller producers concerned about the impact of lower prices on oil revenue. OPEC does not meet again until Dec. 4.   Continued...

A table with OPEC logo is seen during the presentation of OPEC's 2013 World Oil Outlook in Vienna , November 7, 2013. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger