Updated: Opec oil ministers have agreed to maintain the status quo and keep the group’s production quota unchanged. The decision was widely expected, but moved oil prices slightly higher.
The agreement has now been confirmed by Opec’s secretary-general Abdalla Salem El-Badri and Ali Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister and the group’s de-facto leader.
Oil prices moved slightly higher on the news. April West Texas Intermediate crude, the US benchmark futures contract, was up 61c at $82.31 a barrel, approaching a level it has not seen – other than once this January – since October 2008. The European benchmark Brent price was up 68c to $81.21.
Opec agreed to next meet in in Vienna in October, a month later than had been expected, because several ministers have other prior commitments in September.
As a rush of journalists entered the domed meeting room in Opec’s new headquarters building this morning, ministers from Libya to Saudi Arabia said they saw no reason to change tac. The oil price – at around $80 a barrel – is where they want it to be and the economy is showing good signs of recovery, they reasoned.
The most definitive quote came from Ali Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s powerful oil minister, who told a gaggle of journalists, including AFP, which had the quote up on line within seconds:
“There is no question: there is agreement, yes,” he said. When asked what Opec would decide at its meeting, he said: “To keep things as they are. We are very happy with the situation as it is.”
So unless ministers have been telling bald-faced lies, this meeting is over even before it has officially begun.