OPEC countries, Russia agree to cut oil output further

Energy prices rise sharply after OPEC members agree to cut output by an extra 500,000 barrels a day in order to stem pressure on prices.

LONDON - The OPEC oil-producing countries and ally Russia said Friday they have agreed to cut crude production, prompting a surge in global crude prices that they hope to sustain into next year.

The group decided to cut output by an extra 500,000 barrels a day as they try to support the price of energy and bolster their revenues. But the decision was not easy: they do not want to hand over too much business to the United States, which keeps pumping more oil and flooding the market.

OPEC members had been aiming for a cut in order to stem pressure on prices from abundant reserves and weak global economic growth.

“We have decided to reduce production by 500,000 barrels a day through the first quarter of next year,” said Russian energy minister Alexander Novak.

This would bring production 1.7 million barrels per day below October 2018 levels. The cuts come on top of a reduction of 1.2 million barrels a day that the oil producers have been observing for the past three years.

However, the group said that "in addition, several participating countries, mainly Saudi Arabia, will continue their additional voluntary contributions," meaning the overall production cut would effectively be 2.1 million barrels per day.

The sticking point in the talks, which dragged on over two days, appears to have been how to share the cuts among the 14 OPEC countries and nations like Russia that have been coordinating their production with the cartel in recent years.

Saudi Arabia has been bearing the burden of the largest share of production cuts recently. But some countries including Iraq and Russia have been pumping more than expected, dampening the overall impact on markets.

Analysts note that if countries are already not complying with the current agreement, agreeing in principle could be pointless.

Investors seemed impressed by OPEC's resolve, however, pushing up energy prices sharply.

The price of oil had risen in recent days on expectations for a production cut and gained further on Friday. Brent, the international benchmark, jumped 86 cents to $64.25 a barrel. The US benchmark gained 77 cents to $59.20 a barrel.

It's unclear whether energy prices will continue to rise, however. Even as the members of the cartel cut production, there is more oil coming to market from non-OPEC nations, including the US, Canada, Brazil, Norway and Guyana. That could make up for any cuts from OPEC and Russia.