L’OPEC s’écroule?

[NYTimes] VIENNA — Hours after suffering a rare setback at OPEC headquarters, where the cartel said its members needed to lower production to keep prices from sinking below $100 a barrel, Saudi officials assured world markets on Wednesday that they would ignore the decision and continue to pump as much oil as needed.

The marathon late-night session here illustrated the new pressures and power politics at play in the group that controls 40 percent of world oil production — and how ineffective the cartel can be. The meeting might be a harbinger of things to come, as OPEC faces its most difficult challenge in years: how to respond to falling prices in a weakening and uncertain global environment….

The Saudi message is to wait and see where demand is headed before reducing supplies. The OPEC decision in effect puts the kingdom in the driver’s seat in setting its output for the autumn, according to Greg Priddy, an energy analyst at Eurasia Group.

“Clearly, other OPEC members are not going to trim their own production without Saudi Arabia returning to its quota,” Mr. Priddy said in a research note. “Saudi Arabia also seems to be eager to avoid headlines about it cutting production in advance of the U.S. elections.”

Rafael Ramírez, the Venezuelan oil minister and a supporter of OPEC’s high-price policy, said in Vienna that he expected prices to stabilize at about $100 a barrel.

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