OPEC, allies adjourn meeting over oil production levels

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Members of the OPEC oil cartel and allied countries including Russia on Monday adjourned a meeting weighing whether to increase production further next month as the pandemic continues to sap demand for energy and create uncertainty about when recovery might come.

The oil producing countries were to meet again Tuesday. In December, the group decided to add back a modest 500,000 barrels per day to the oil market, and to review production monthly with a goal of restoring 2 million barrels a day.

OPEC and non-member countries that have agreed to cooperate with it last year imposed a production cut of 7.7 million barrels a day to prevent prices from collapsing during the economic slump caused by the pandemic.

Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman opened the online meeting Monday by saying that demand remained “fragile” for transport fuels including for aircraft, and that the cartel needed to move carefully even as the rollout of vaccination programs raises hopes for a return to more normal travel habits. He said that “I want to urge caution even in this generally optimistic environment.”

Vienna-based OPEC faces conflicting pressures. Raising production would increase revenues for producing countries that have seen their budgets hard hit by lower prices, but pumping too much too soon could undermine the modest price rebound. Oil prices fell by 52 cents Monday to $48.00 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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