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Saudi Arabia, Russia To Freeze Oil Output Near Record Levels

Mohammed Sergie and Grant Smith, Bloomberg

Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed to freeze oil output at near-record levels, the first coordinated move by the world’s two largest producers to counter a slump that has pummeled economies, markets and companies.

While the deal is preliminary and doesn’t include Iran, it’s the first significant cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC producers in 15 years and Saudi Arabia said it’s open to further action. Oil pared gains after the accord was announced, signaling traders see no immediate end to the global supply glut.

The deal to fix production at January levels, which includes Qatar and Venezuela, is the “beginning of a process” that could require “other steps to stabilize and improve the market,” Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi said in Doha Tuesday after the talks with Russian Energy Minster Alexander Novak. Qatar and Venezuela also agreed to participate, he said.

Saudi Arabia has resisted making any cuts in output to boost prices from a 12-year low, arguing that it would simply be losing market share unless its rivals also agreed to reduce supplies. Naimi’s comments may continue to feed speculation that the world’s biggest oil producers will take action to revive prices.

“The reason we agreed to a potential freeze of production is simply the beginning of a process” over next few months,” Naimi told reporters. “We don’t want significant gyrations in prices. We don’t want a reduction in supply. We want to meet demand. We want a stable oil price.”

Oil pared gains in London, after rising before the meeting amid speculation the countries would discuss production cuts. Brent crude was 1.2 percent higher at $33.78 a barrel at 11:39 a.m. in London, having earlier climbed as much as 6.5 percent.

Production Freeze

While Novak has said he could consider cuts if other countries joined in, Russia faces significant obstacles to doing so. The freeze is conditional on other nation’s agreeing to participate, Russia’s Energy Ministry said in a statement.

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