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Oil prices fall as Opec maintains output levels

Oil prices fell on Tuesday as the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) decided at a meeting against changing the cartel’s official crude output levels, in a widely expected move.

New York’s main futures contract, light sweet crude for delivery in February, dropped 34 cents to $73,38 a barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for February lost 30 cents to $72,69.

Opec held its crude output quotas unchanged at its meeting in Angola on Tuesday, warning of lingering weakness in the world economy.

“The economic recovery has gathered pace,” the group’s president, Angolan Oil Minister Jose Botelho de Vasconcelos, said at the start of the meeting.

“The market remains well supplied. Prices have moved up to more comfortable levels,” he said as he welcomed ministers to the first Opec meeting hosted by Angola.

“However, the fragility remains in the market and we should not forget the detrimental volatility we experienced last year,” Vasconcelos added.

The cartel’s most influential member, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi, said crude price levels were “perfect”.

“Everybody is happy,” he told reporters. “We’re happy with it … because the investor is happy.”

Tuesday’s meeting caps a year of recovery for oil prices, which have more than doubled since the cartel set strict quota cuts in the depths of the economic crisis a year ago.

Opec had last week slightly upgraded its forecast for world oil demand growth next year but said usage in advanced economies would contract again. — AFP

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