OPEC sees less oil demand in 2015

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OPEC sees less oil demand in 2015

Crude took a fresh drubbing Thursday as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) reduced its estimate for 2015 demand, Kuwait offered new discounts to Asian customers and the Saudi oil minister questioned the need for an output cut.

“Why should I cut production?” Ali Al-Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, said in response to reporters’ questions Wednesday in Lima, where he is attending UN climate talks. “This is a market and I’m selling in a market. Why should I cut?”

OPEC cut the forecast for how much crude it will need to produce next year by about 300,000 barrels a day to 28.9 million, the least since 2003.

The group’s three largest members, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait, are offering oil to Asian buyers at the deepest discounts in at least six years.

Brent crude, the international benchmark, increased 51 cents to $64.75 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe Exchange at 12:08 p.m. Singapore time. The contract on Wednesday closed at the lowest since July 2009. West Texas Intermediate oil added 0.9 percent to $61.47. An Iranian official warned on Dec. 9 that prices could drop to $40 a barrel should OPEC’s unity break down. Bonds issued by oil-exporting countries sank along with crude futures.

Brent crude slumped into a bear market this year amid speculation that Saudi Arabia and other nations in OPEC won’t cut output in response to a surplus. Prices plunged 17 percent since the group met on Nov. 27 and agreed to maintain a production target of 30 million barrels a day. OPEC said in a monthly report on Thursday that demand for its crude is weakening amid expanding supplies from U.S. shale producers.

“Naimi can’t change policy within two weeks of an OPEC meeting; they’ve got to stick it out for at least a quarter to make it obvious that non-OPEC can’t rely on high and stable prices,” Paul Horsnell, head of commodities research at Standard Chartered PLC, said. “If it’s clear there’s damage done on non-OPEC, that’s the time they can start calling the dogs off.”

Any break in OPEC solidarity or price war will lead to an “enormous price-dive shock” that would push oil to $40 or $50, Mohammad Sadegh Memarian, an Iranian Oil Ministry official, said at a conference in Dubai on Tuesday.

“Saudi’s paradigm shift clearly shows their frustration with increasing supplies globally, OPEC and non-OPEC both,” Abhishek Deshpande, an analyst in London at Natixis SA, said. “Saudi is testing the water here with unconventional non-OPEC producers.”

Kuwait Petroleum Corp., the state-run oil company, will sell its crude to Asian refiners at $3.95 a barrel below regional benchmarks next month, the company said Wednesday. That’s the biggest discount since December 2008, data show. Iraq’s discount in Asia is the biggest in at least 11 years and Saudi Arabia widened the discount on Arab Light to the most in at least 14 years.

Crude will stay at about $65 a barrel for at least half a year until OPEC changes its production or economic growth revives, Nizar Al-Adsani, CEO of state-run Kuwait Petroleum Corp. said Monday.

Prices now are below what 10 out of OPEC’s 12 members need for their annual budgets to break even, according to data. Kuwait and Qatar are the exceptions. Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s biggest member, has $742.4 billion of reserve assets, data from the country’s monetary agency show. OPEC’s next meeting is set for June 5.

Demand for OPEC’s crude next year will slump to the lowest since totaling 27.05 million a day in 2003, the group’s data show.

The group’s 12 members last month pumped about 1.15 million barrels a day more than the 2015 level. OPEC produced 30.05 million a day in November, down 390,000 barrels a day from the previous month.


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