By the OGJ Online Staff
HOUSTON, Sept. 27 -- Futures prices for oil and refined products rallied on international markets Wednesday as officials of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries planned informal consultations Thursday in Vienna with the largest delegation of non-OPEC producers ever to attend a meeting of cartel ministers.
OPEC ministers agreed Wednesday to maintain their present production quotas unchanged at a total output at 23.2 million b/d and to retain the target price range of $22-$28/bbl for their basket of seven crudes (OGJ Online, Sept. 26, 2001).
However, they did not announce that decision until after meeting Thursday with observers from Angola, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Oman, Russia, and Sudan.
OPEC ministers said Thursday they will meet again Nov. 14 in Vienna to review market developments and would "cut output at that time if necessary."
OPEC's basket price regained 24¢ to $20.11/bbl Wednesday, marking its third consecutive day below the cartel's minimum target price of $22/bbl. OPEC ministers previously agreed to take whatever necessary action if that basket price remained outside the targeted price band for 10 trading days.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said told reporters Wednesday in Caracas, "If it is necessary to prepare some kind of OPEC presidential meeting, I am already thinking about it because we must defend oil prices under any circumstances."
The November contract for benchmark US sweet, light crude Wednesday regained 57¢ to $22.38/bbl on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while the December contract moved up 52¢ to $22.73/bbl.
During the previous seven trading sessions, the November oil contract lost more than 25% of its value, falling by nearly $7/bbl.
Heating oil for October delivery also jumped by 3.03¢ to 64.79¢/gal on the NYMEX. Unleaded gasoline for the same month inched up 0.3¢ to 62.39¢/gal, but the October natural gas contract fell 9.5¢ to $1.83/Mcf.
Traders reported mixed market signals Wednesday with the US Energy Information Administration reporting an increase last week of 3.2 million bbl in US crude stocks. That countered an earlier report by the American Petroleum Institute that US oil inventories declined by 256,000 bbl during that same period.
In London, North Sea Brent crude futures prices increased in a largely technical correction on the International Petroleum Exchange. The November Brent contract closed at $23/bbl, up 62¢ for the day after trading in a range of $20.70-$23.05/bbl.
London brokers said the Brent futures market appeared to bottom out just below $22/bbl and that current prices probably reflect the expected impact on oil consumption from a global economic recession.
Oil prices will probably remain near present levels until the US military makes a retaliatory strike against Osama bin Laden and his terrorists in Afghanistan, said analysts. That probably will not occur "for another couple of weeks," they said.
The October natural gas contract lost Wednesday 5.1¢ to the equivalent of $3.14/Mcf on the IPE.