Oil prices dug their heels in this week as OPEC member states made clear their intention to cut output when they meet next Wednesday in Vienna to discuss production quotas.
Benchmark Brent North Sea crude for February delivery was selling for $25.63 a barrel in London by Friday afternoon, from $25.76 a week earlier.
In New York, the light sweet crude February contract was going for $29.43 a barrel, compared with $28.48 the previous week.
Market watchers said that an output cut of about 1.5 million barrels a day was the most likely outcome of the OPEC get-together, although some OPEC members such as Iran, Iraq and Qatar have called for output cuts of as much as two million barrels a day.
Market watchers say that Saudi Arabia has already informed some of its customers that it will pump 500,000 less barrels of crude a day from February -- roughly equivalent to its portion of an output cut of 1.5 million barrels.
It is a far cry from the 10-year high points above $35 a barrel seen last year when OPEC increased production four times amid pleas by consumer nations to pump more oil to quench the thirsts of the market.
In a bid to persuade the exclusive oil-exporting club not to slow its pumps at next week's meeting, the world's largest oil importer, the United States, dispatched its energy chief Bill Richardson to OPEC capitals this week to lobby against production cuts.
Richardson is likely to have his work cut out, however. One Iraqi deputy told AFP that his trip "can only be contrary to the interests of OPEC countries." – (London, AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )