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OPEC Secretary-General Abdalla Salem El-Badri, left, chats with Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Nuaimi (FAYEZ NURELDINE)
OPEC Secretary-General Abdalla Salem El-Badri, left, chats with Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Nuaimi (FAYEZ NURELDINE)

Energy stocks feel ripples from Egypt

OPEC worried about Egypt, but not acting Add to ...

OPEC is concerned by unrest in Egypt but sees no need for an immediate boost in its output as there is no shortage of oil, the group's top producer Saudi Arabia and its leading official said on Monday.

Oil prices have spiked following tension in Egypt. Brent crude is near $100 per barrel on fears instability could spread through the Middle East, which together with North Africa produces more than a third of the world's oil.

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The unrest to the oil price rally, which was already gathering pace after a bigger than expected jump in demand due to the global economic recovery.

OPEC Secretary-General Abdullah al-Badri told reporters in London the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries did not think it was necessary to call a meeting before its next planned gathering in June, But he added that the mood was changing due to the situation in Egypt.

"Before the Tunisian and the Egyptian crisis, we don't see it (an extraordinary meeting). But now, I don't know if this crisis will escalate. I hope not," Mr. Badri said when asked about chances for an OPEC meeting before June.

Mr. Badri confirmed OPEC ministers and consumers would discuss oil output policy on the sidelines of an international energy conference in Saudi Arabia on Feb. 22, but said a formal decision there was unlikely.

"Riyadh is not an OPEC meeting. Nobody asked me to prepare anything, so I really cannot tell you anything," he said.

The head of the International Energy Agency Nobua Tanaka, told Reuters on Saturday the West's energy watchdog wanted OPEC to be more flexible in the face of unrest in the Arab world and act quickly if needed.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi told a conference in Geneva he though the oil market was balanced in the short-term.

"The kingdon realizes we have an important role to play in promoting stability in the world's oil market," he said.

"The kingdom has invited more than 80 ministers from around the world to come to Saudi Arabia next month to sign the IEF's new charter."

The International Energy Forum is the world's largest gathering of energy ministers, from both consuming and producing nations.

"This effort will take the producer-consumer relationship to yet a higher level," Mr. Naimi said referring to the February 22 IEF meeting in Riyadh.

He said he was sticking to his preferred price range of $70-$80 per barrel and thought that maintaining spare production capacity was a powerful tool to balance the markets.

"It is our ongoing policy to maintain at least 1.5-2.0 million barrels of spare capacity to be used whenever and wherever there is a need. Today it stands at about 4 million barrels per day," Mr. Naimi said.

Mr. Badri said he did not expect the unrest in Egypt to affect oil flows through the Suez canal or the Sumed pipeline.

"I think that the flows will continue," he said. He told Reuters Television that OPEC had not received any calls from U.S. President Barack Obama asking the group to pump more.

"We are watching the situation (in Egypt) because there is some good quantity (at stake) and if there is a problem there we have to do something," he said.

"Inventories are very high and our spare capacity is also six million barrels. I don't see why we have this high price," he said adding that he would support "moderate" regulations to curb speculators in the market.

"The market is well supplied but at the same time if we see some real shortage we will intervene," Mr. Badri said.

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