Update at 5:50 p.m. ET
OPEC oil ministers have agreed to keep production levels steady, virtually ensuring continued low prices at the gas pump and lower costs for jet fuel that could translate into cheaper air-ticket prices.
Reuters reports: “Benchmark Brent futures settled at $72.58 a barrel, down $5.17, after hitting a four-year low of $71.25 earlier in the session. The contract was on track for its biggest monthly fall since 2008. U.S. crude was last down $4.64 at $69.05 a barrel.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, during a meeting in Austria, members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries “agreed to stick to the oil-producer group’s existing output target of 30 million barrels of oil a day, a decision that implies it will cut production from recent levels but stops some way short of the action likely required to boost sagging global oil prices.
“Sticking to its current production ceiling of 30 million barrels a day would involve an OPEC supply cut of around 300,000 barrels a day based on the cartel’s output in October.
“Oil prices plunged on the news, with Brent crude down 3.2% to $75.26 a barrel.”
Crude prices have dropped significantly as stepped-up production in the U.S. and Canada and more fuel-efficient cars have caused output to outstrip demand. China has also taken advantage of low prices to increase its strategic petroleum reserve as a cushion against future oil shocks.
The inability of OPEC to agree to cut production in an effort to stabilize prices was widely expected.
According to Reuters: “Some analysts have said that oil prices could slide to $60 per barrel if OPEC does not agree to a significant output cut. Benchmark Brent futures dropped over $1 on Thursday to $76.28 a barrel, the lowest level since September 2010. U.S. crude also dropped over $1 to a session low of $72.61.”
The Russian rouble weakened against the U.S. dollar on the news. Although Russia, a major petroleum exporter, is not a member of OPEC, the organization’s decisions have a broad impact on the global industry.