The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - BUSI­NESS -

$2.20 at $59.36 a bar­rel on a day when stock mar­kets also fell sharply around the world.

The fall in the price of oil will be a help to many con­sumers as well as en­ergy-hun­gry busi­nesses, par­tic­u­larly at a time when global growth is slow­ing. And Trump has been putting pres­sure pub­licly on OPEC to not cut pro­duc­tion. He tweeted Wed­nes­day that “Hope­fully OPEC will be keep­ing oil flows as is, not re­stricted. The World does not want to see, or need, higher oil prices!”

While Saudi Ara­bia has in­di­cated it is will­ing to cut pro­duc­tion, its de­ci­sion may be com­pli­cated by Trump’s de­ci­sion to not sanc­tion the coun­try over the killing of dis­si­dent jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi. U.S. Se­na­tors say, af­ter a brief­ing with in­tel­li­gence ser­vices, that they are con­vinced that Saudi’s de-facto ruler, Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, was in­volved in Khashoggi’s death. Some ex­perts say that gives the U.S. some lever­age over the Saudis, though Al-Falih de­nied that on Thurs­day.

When asked if the Saudis had per­mis­sion from Trump to cut pro­duc­tion, Al-Falih replied: “I don’t need per­mis­sion from any for­eign gov­ern­ments.”

Ex­perts say this week’s meet­ings of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of the Petroleum Ex­port­ing Coun­tries will in­flu­ence the price of oil over the com­ing months. How strongly it does so could de­pend on Rus­sia’s con­tri­bu­tion.

An­a­lysts es­ti­mate that if Rus­sia is will­ing to step up its pro­duc­tion cuts, OPEC and non-OPEC coun­tries could trim pro­duc­tion by a com­bined 1.3-1.4 mil­lion bar­rels a day. A cut of 1 mil­lion bar­rels would be the min­i­mum to sup­port the mar­ket, and any­thing less could see the price of oil fall an­other $10 a bar­rel, ac­cord­ing to Neil Wil­son, chief mar­ket an­a­lyst at Mar­kets.com.

“The car­tel has to go above and be­yond the 1 mil­lion bar­rels cut, to at least 1.4 mil­lion to re­ally steady the ship,” said Wil­son. “The stakes are high now for OPEC.”

OPEC’s re­liance on non­mem­bers like Rus­sia highlights the car­tel’s wan­ing in­flu­ence in oil mar­kets, which it had dom­i­nated for decades. The OPECRus­sia al­liance was made nec­es­sary in 2016 to com­pete with the United States’ vastly in­creased pro­duc­tion of oil in re­cent years. By some es­ti­mates, the U.S. this year be­came the world’s top crude pro­ducer.

OPEC is also riven by in­ter­nal con­flict, par­tic­u­larly the ri­valry be­tween Saudi Ara­bia and Iran. Mean­while, Qatar, a Saudi ri­val and Ira­nian ally, said this week it would leave OPEC in Jan­uary. While it said it was purely a prac­ti­cal de­ci­sion be­cause it mainly pro­duces nat­u­ral gas and lit­tle oil, the move was viewed as a sym­bolic snub to the Sau­didom­i­nated or­ga­ni­za­tion.

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