Oil producers to continue working to boost output

Oil price jumps as Opec keeps output steady

However, the Saudis face another challenge which is to appease President Donald Trump while keeping the Kingdom's vision together of a major alliance between crude oil producers.

The delegates agreed to maintain the output share of Iran, an OPEC member.

OPEC also decided on Sunday to adjust the dates of its next meeting to December 6-7 from the earlier-agreed December 3.

Concerns about production shortfalls are encouraging traders to place more long bets, boosting Brent prices, said Brian LaRose, a technical analyst at United-ICAP.

While working to appease Trump may raise questions about the Saudis' leadership, the failure to send a clear signal to the US President may make OPEC his next target.

New inventory data from the US Energy Information Administration and Department, which will be released later this week, will be crucial in deciding the price curve. Analysts say that the Saudis are anxious about Trump's potential willingness to support such bipartisan legislation, which was rejected by Presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama.

Earlier this week Trump criticised Opec, urging the oil cartel to "get prices down now".

Falih said Saudi Arabia has spare capacity to boost output but that this action was not necessary for now, and might not be needed next year because OPEC projects there will be a marked rise in oil production from non-OPEC countries which could outpace global demand.

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Oil benchmark Brent traded little changed on Wednesday after rising to its highest in almost four years in the previous session, while USA crude futures fell as United States' officials tried to assure that the market would be well-supplied before sanctions are re-imposed on producer Iran.

Last Friday, crude oil prices moved lower after various media outlets reported that OPEC has been discussing increasing production by 500,000 barrels a day.

When Trump in May announced plans to reimpose sanctions on Iran's oil exports, the market estimated a cut of about 300,000 to 700,000 barrels a day, said Trafigura Group co-head of oil trading Ben Luckock. "As a result, the strength of oil prices is now putting oil demand growth at risk", he added.

Indian refiners - struggling from high crude feedstock prices and a sliding rupee - are planning to reduce oil imports in what could be a first sign that high prices are starting to hurt demand.

Higher prices have helped to boost investment in crude globally, particularly in USA shale projects.

"While investments picked up slightly in 2017 compared to the previous two years, and the expectations are for higher levels again in 2018, it is vital that as an industry we ensure there is timely and adequate investment so as not to lead to a supply shortage in the future", OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo said. In her view, the market does not focus enough on how Iran will react.

For all these urgent supply pressures, the world's largest oil producers adopted a sit-back-and-wait approach at their meeting in the Algerian capital on Sunday. They can also resume their nuclear programme, warns Croft, or increase operations in foreign conflict zones, such as Yemen and Syria. High fuel prices are going to remain the hot button political issue, even as the countdown to the Lok Sabha elections 2019 has begun.

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