OPEC Works Toward Deal as Saudis Propose Plan for Higher Output

A man walks past an electronic stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo

Pioneer Natural Resources chairman Scott Sheffield-who is in Vienna for an global OPEC conference-warned that oil prices could jump to $100 a barrel if the cartel and friends don't boost production.

Volatility was the theme on Wednesday as bearish traders continue to support the notion that Saudi Arabia and Russian Federation would push for at least a 1 million barrel per day increase in production, while bullish investors priced in opposition to the increase by Iran, Iraq and Venezuela.

When OPEC and its allies, which include Russia, Kazakhstan and Mexico, agreed to cut output in late 2016, they announced a 1.8 million-barrel-a-day reduction.

Other OPEC-members, including Iran, are against such a move, fearing a sharp slump in prices. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al Falih, asked whether he expected an easy meeting on Friday, said: "We will find out". Opec's supply-cutting pact runs until the end of 2018. Zanganeh urged OPEC to resist calls from Donald Trump to change its output policy.

That would effectively mean a boost from producers such as Saudi Arabia that have voluntarily cut more deeply than planned.

Iran, with some support from Venezuela, has so far rejected any increase, including one compromise mooted in private by some OPEC officials for a 300,000-to-600,000 barrel-a-day hike in the second half of the year. "An increase because of external pressure on OPEC is not acceptable", said a source familiar with Iranian thinking.

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"OPEC is listening to consumers", Bob Dudley, the chief executive of BP Plc, said on the sidelines of the OPEC conference in Vienna.

"We want to prevent the shortage and the squeeze that we saw in 2007-2008", Falih said, referring to a time when oil rallied close to $150 per barrel.

"This puts Saudi Arabia in a tough position, as unanimity is needed for any accord to be reached", it added.

Zanganeh was due to attend a ministerial committee on Thursday.

While India is not in favour of oil prices as low as $30 a barrel, the prevailing price levels are too high and stand to hurt the country's fiscal situation, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on Wednesday.

On Thursday, however, Iraqi Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi said: "We are in comprehensive talks with all ministers, especially Saudi Arabia and Iran, and we are trying to narrow that gap between the two and we hope that this afternoon we will reach some sort of good compromise".

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