Can OPEC influence crude prices?

Associated Press

Washington, June 26:

Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ (OPEC) inability to bring down the cost of oil has helped push US petrol prices above 53 cents a litre for the past three months. But don’t jump to any hasty conclusions about the cartel’s influence or intentions in the market.

The OPEC could be in a stronger position next year if analysts’ forecasts of a growing supply cushion prove to be correct. And while that would ease traders’ jitters and likely make oil and gasoline cheaper, it might also put OPEC in the mood to cut production to prevent prices from falling too far.

OPEC officials, who this week said they are considering boosting their output target by 500,000 barrels a day, insist they aren’t to blame for the latest surge in oil prices to the record $60 per barrel level.

They say their aim is to ease prices as a way of keeping the global economy from seizing up.

But traders dismissed the latest effort — as well the OPEC agreement on June 15 to raise its output target by half a million barrels on July 1 — because no new barrels would immediately hit the market and because it would further deplete OPEC’s already thin supply cushion.

Yesterday, after climbing as high as $60 a barrel for the second straight day, light, sweet crude for August settled at $59.84 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

It was a record close on Nymex, where oil futures have been traded since 1983.