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Daily Telegraph: Oil market is out of our control, says Opec

Daily Telegraph image

Crude oil options traders work on the
floor of the New York Mercantile Exchange

By Russell Hotten, Industry Editor
Last Updated: 6:35am GMT 31/10/2007

OPEC oil ministers say they are powerless in the face of many factors driving up the price of crude, with one member of the producers’ cartel warning that the ‘market is out of control’.

Mohammed bin Dhaen al-Hamli, president of Opec, told a conference in London yesterday that record oil prices are the result of speculative investment and international political tensions. “We are of course concerned about high oil prices,” he said. But “the market is increasingly driven by forces beyond Opec’s control”.

However, there were signs yesterday that the inexorable rise in crude prices could be about to ease, with the cost of a barrel slipping on news that Mexico had increased production and investment bank Goldman Sachs saying that it was time for investors to “take profits”.

Mr al-Hamli said that Opec, whose members supply about 40pc of the world’s oil needs, was “monitoring” the situation and would increase output if necessary. “If the market needs more oil, we will supply it,” he said.

But he added that the oil price, up 34pc since mid-August, was the result of geo-political tensions and speculation by traders. Mr al-Hamli did not refer to specific situations, although analysts have pointed to recent problems on the Turkey-Iraq border and speculation by hedge funds as fuelling recent price rises.

Another oil minister, Qatar’s Abdullah al-Attiyah, pleaded: “Please don’t blame us for $93 oil… The market is out of control.” He said that the oil market is “very confused”, but added that this had nothing to do with an imbalance between supply and demand, but to factors outside Opec’s control.

However, major energy users believe one solution to the current problems would be for Opec to open the taps. “If oil is going up, keeping at this level may hurt the economy, especially nonoil-producing developing countries,” said Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the International Energy Agency, which advises large oil-consuming countries.

The head of the US Energy Information Administration, Guy Caruso, said: “Our view continues to be that the market is fundamentally tight. We think that the market still needs more barrels as we head out into the next year or so.”

US oil futures fell by $3.02 to $90.51 a barrel yesterday, after hitting a record high of $93.80 in the previous session. In London Brent fell $2.40 to $87.92, down from Monday’s peak of $90.49.

Oil analysts at Goldman Sachs, which in July predicted that oil may reach $95 a barrel, told investors yesterday that it was time to “sell” oil.;jsessionid=BCCHXC3SPPDM5QFIQMFSFFWAVCBQ0IV0?xml=/money/2007/10/31/cnopec131.xml 

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