Paris, October 11:

Global demand for crude oil is likely to rise by 1.2 per cent this year to 84.6 million barrels per day (bpd), and by 1.7 per cent in 2007 to 86.0 million bpd, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said today.

This is a slight downward revision of the IEA’S previous forecast of 1.3 per cent growth in 2006 and 1.8 per cent in 2007, in part owing to “high crude prices, benign weather and low natural gas prices”, the IEA said. However, oil prices were steady in Asian trade today as the market’s focus turned to whether OPEC leading producer Saudi Arabia will cut production, dealers said.

At 2:24 pm (0624 GMT) New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for November delivery, was up three cents at $58.55 a barrel from $58.52 in late US trade yesterday when prices fell more than a dollar on scepticism about OPEC’s reported output cuts.

“Today, the big focus is on Saudi Arabia and what it’s going to do although it looks like they aren’t going to cut production,” said Steve Rowles, an analyst with CFC Seymour in Hong Kong. He said that if Saudi Arabia does not reduce its output, “I can’t see other OPEC members cutting production.” The cartel’s largest members, Saudi Ar-abia and Iran, are meeting next week to ratify an agreement to reduce output.