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Tue 9 Aug 2011 05:38 PM

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OPEC cuts oil demand amid economic gloom

Oil cartel urges vigilance, says 'dark clouds over economy' impacting market's direction

OPEC cuts oil demand amid economic gloom

OPEC, source of more than a third of the world's oil, cut
its forecast for global oil demand growth this year as a worsening economic
outlook curbs consumption in developed economies.

The revision from the Organisation of the Petroleum
Exporting Countries in a report on Tuesday follows reductions by other
forecasters, such as investment bank Barclays Capital, as slowing growth hits consumers
and businesses.

"Dark clouds over the economy are already impacting the
market's direction," OPEC said in its monthly report. "The potential
for a consequent deterioration in market stability requires higher vigilance
and close monitoring of developments over the coming months."

World oil demand will increase by 1.21 million barrels per
day (bpd) in 2011, OPEC said, 150,000 bpd less than expected last month. Growth
next year was lowered only marginally, by 20,000 bpd to 1.30 million bpd.

Economic gloom has been weighing on oil prices and,
officials say, causing some concern in OPEC. Brent crude slumped to the lowest
in six months on Tuesday, dipping below $100, before rebounding towards $105 by
1247 GMT.

"Economic worries along with high oil prices have
affected OECD oil demand," OPEC said. A revised report received minutes
before its embargoed release time of 1130 GMT removed the words "high oil
prices" from the sentence.

"Oil demand in the OECD is expected to continue its
contraction after a temporary rebound last year."

Others in the oil industry, such as BP and Royal Dutch
Shell , have said high crude prices dented demand in the second quarter. BarCap
cut its demand growth forecasts last week.

The issue of "high prices" is a sensitive one for
the 12-member OPEC, which has no collective price target.

The weakening demand picture for 2011 could bolster the view
of Iran and other price hawks within OPEC who at a meeting in June blocked a
Saudi Arabia-led proposal to increase output.

After the failed meeting, Saudi Arabia and other members
including Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates unilaterally increased their
production, helping OPEC output to rise to the highest in months.

According to secondary sources cited by the OPEC report,
OPEC supply rose by 405,000 bpd in July to 30.07 million bpd. That is the same
total as a Reuters estimate published on July 28.

There is no sign, yet, that Saudi Arabia is rethinking its
supply policy. The kingdom has left supply to Asian and European customers
unchanged in September despite the fall in prices, industry sources said on

An OPEC delegate told Reuters earlier this week that while
the economic picture and slide in oil prices was a worry, there was no plan for
the group to hold an emergency meeting.

Despite the reduced demand forecast and higher production,
OPEC's economists still forecast a gap between supply and demand in the second
half of the year.

Tuesday's report implied the supply gap had narrowed to
810,000 bpd in the second half from 1.25 million bpd in July. It expects demand
for OPEC crude to rise next year to 30.2 million bpd - 100,000 bpd less than
expected last month - from 30 million bpd in 2011.

Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity markets strategy at
BNP Paribas, said it was significant OPEC was still pumping less than its own
economists forecast the world will need, and demand outside the OECD remained
largely on track.

"OPEC has reduced its demand forecasts but the estimate
of the 'call' on its crude oil in the third quarter still remains above the
cartel's current production," he said.

"If economic forecasts have been downgraded in the
United States and Euope, hitherto there has been no notable downgrade to the
outlook in emerging markets where oil demand growth ultimately takes

The spotlight will now fall on the other two closely watched
oil forecasts from government agencies due for release soon.

Later on Tuesday, the US government's Energy Information
Administration releases its August report. At present, it sees higher 2011
demand growth than OPEC of 1.43 million bpd.

The International Energy Agency, adviser 28 industrialised
countries, issues its report on Wednesday. The IEA currently predicts 2011 oil
demand growth of 1.2 million bpd.

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