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Oil prices up on Saudi market pledge

Crude oil markets showing sign of recovery, though prices still off about 10 percent for the year.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Oil prices up on Saudi market pledge
Crude oil rally continues as Saudi Arabia opens door to discussing ways to arrest the slump with rival producers. Oil prices still off about 10 percent from the start of the year. File photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, Feb. 29 (UPI) -- A pledge Monday from Saudi Arabia to work with fellow producers to achieve market stability gave momentum to an emerging rally in crude oil prices.

The Saudi Cabinet of Ministers met Monday in Riyadh to review market sentiments expressed last week at an international energy conference in Houston.

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Ministers issued a statement through the official Saudi Press Agency saying the government "will permanently communicate with all major oil producers in an attempt to reduce fluctuations [in crude oil prices]" and welcome any cooperation to that end.

The price for Brent crude oil moved up about 1 percent before the start of trading in New York to $35.48 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for crude oil, moved up about 0.4 percent to $32.91 per barrel.

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Officials from Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela agreed last week to meet in March to consider production arrangements. The parties at a meeting in Doha earlier this month agreed to freeze output at January levels provided other producers followed suit.

Monday's strong start for crude oil prices followed weekend legislative elections in Iran that brought several reform-minded allies of President Hassan Rouhani into the fold. Iran under Rouhani's tenure has worked to diversify a weak economy and moved out from underneath sanctions pressure with a breakthrough nuclear agreement with world powers.

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With sanctions relief in hand, Iran aims to take a greater share of the oil market. Monday's increase in oil prices came despite pledges from Iran to increase oil production. Iranian energy officials said from Tehran it was up to other members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to deal with supply-side strains as it gears up for higher production and export levels.

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Crude oil prices are still about 10 percent below the start of the year because markets are favoring the supply side amid weak economic growth. Eurostat, the statistics office for the European Union, reported inflation turned negative in February after a gain of 0.3 percent the previous month.

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