By SUMMER SAID
RIYADH—The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries Tuesday further trimmed its forecasts for oil demand in 2011 and 2012 and warned it could cut the outlook again amid growing unease over the global economy.
In its monthly report, OPEC reduced its forecast for oil-demand growth for this year by 180,000 barrels of oil a day on uncertainty in the world economy and weakening Chinese and Indian prospects. The group also signaled concern about a possible "imbalance" in the supply-demand balance in the oil market.
"Uncertainty in the world economy has dimmed the picture for 2011, particularly in the [Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development] reion," OPEC said. "So far, clear signs of weakening demand have had only a limited impact on overall oil-market fundamentals. However, in the current economic environment, it is necessary to remain alert to the risks of a growing market imbalance."
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.Oil demand will still rise by 900,000 barrels a day this year, but the downgrade represents only a fraction of the 87.8 million barrels a day OPEC expects to be consumed this year worldwide, OPEC said. For 2012, its forecast for oil-demand growth was revised down by 70,000 barrels a day to stand at 1.2 million barrels a day.
OPEC estimated demand for its own crude will remain unchanged for 2011 compared with the previous OPEC monthly report. The OPEC oil-demand outlook, however, was cut by 100,000 barrels a day for 2012 to stand steady at 29.9 million barrels a day compared to 2011.
OPEC, which in its August report projected that Libyan oil output would reach one million barrels a day within six months, said that the North African country's output rose to 96,000 barrels a day in September, from only 7,000 barrels a day the previous month. It didn't give any further details on how long the country could take to return to its pre-war production levels.
Though the report didn't comment on the intentions of the group's producers at their next meeting on Dec. 14 in Vienna, the latest cut to its oil-demand forecast could give ammunition to an Iran-led group that has fought against higher oil output. A June OPEC meeting in Vienna ended in acrimony after a Saudi Arabia-led group failed to persuade the cartel that an anticipated surge in oil demand this year merited an output increase.
A split between OPEC oil producers has resurfaced in recent days as economic risks and the return of Libyan output has sent oil prices under $100 a barrel and opened up a debate on what oil price "floor" would compel a response from the producers group.
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