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Oil cuts may be necessary

OPEC and allied oil-producing countries will likely need to cut crude supplies, perhaps by as much as 1 million barrels of oil a day, to rebalance the market after U.S. sanctions on Iran failed to cut Tehran's output, Saudi Arabia's energy minister said Monday.

The comments from the minister, Khalid al-Falih, show the balancing act the U.S. allies face in dealing with President Donald Trump's actions related to the oil industry.

Trump in recent weeks demanded the oil cartel increase production to drive down U.S. gasoline prices. "Hopefully, Saudi Arabia and OPEC will not be cutting oil production. Oil prices should be much lower based on supply!" he tweeted Monday.

The U.S. has meanwhile allowed some of its allies — Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey — as well as rival China to continue to purchase Iranian oil despite re-imposed sanctions, as long as they work to reduce their imports to zero.

Al-Falih, who on Sunday said the kingdom would cut production by over 500,000 barrels per day in December, said Monday that Saudi Arabia had been giving customers "100 per cent of what they asked for." That appeared to be a veiled reference to Trump.

Before the United States re-imposed sanctions on Iran, "fear and anxiety gripped the market," al-Falih said at the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition & Conference. Now "we're seeing the pendulum swing violently to the other side," he added.

The energy minister of the United Arab Emirates, Suhail al-Mazrouei, currently the president of OPEC, said "changes" likely would be necessary as the oil cartel meets in December in Vienna. However, he added: "We need not to overreact when these things happen."

Al-Falih said OPEC officials have seen analysis papers suggesting a production cut of upward of 1 million barrels of crude a day may be necessary to rebalance the market. However, he stressed that more study needed to be done.

"There are a lot of assumptions in their projections that may change," al-Falih said. "We don't want to throttle the global economy."

A gallon of regular gasoline in the U.S. on average now sells for $2.69, down from $2.90 a month ago, according to AAA. Those lower prices likely quieted Trump, but production cuts could again boost prices at the pump.

Neither al-Falih nor al-Mazrouei directly criticized Trump, but Mohammed Hamad al-Rumhy, Oman's oil and gas minister, blamed the U.S. president for some of the volatility striking the oil market. Oman, a sultanate on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, maintains close diplomatic ties to Iran and often serves as an interlocutor between Western powers and Tehran.

"Supply and demand is perhaps the easy part because you can measure it," al-Rumhy said. It's "extremely difficult to quantify what is happening in (the) White House — almost impossible."



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