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OPEC May Move Up Meeting As Coronavirus Continues To Batter Oil Prices

OPEC is considering moving up its March meeting as the effects of the deadly coronavirus continues to exert strong downward pressure on oil prices, signaling that the oil cartel may be more concerned about the effects on the oil market than it had originally let on, S&P Global Platts reported on Wednesday.

"It is very likely to advance to February the OPEC meeting, initially scheduled for the beginning of March, so that we can find the means to ensure market balance," Algeria’s energy minister Mohamed Arkab said on Wednesday, according to state news agency APS.

S&P Global Platts already reported that the OPEC secretariat was preparing a report on the coronavirus and its effects on the oil market, for OPEC members to consider.

On Monday, the cartel was said to be discussing an extension of the current production cut agreement, and that all options were on the table. At the same time, however, both Saudi Arabia and the UAE tried to downplay what it referred to as a “market over-reaction” to the possibility that the virus could dent oil demand in the world’s largest oil importer, China.

“It is important that we do not exaggerate projections related to future decreases in oil demand due to events in China, and the market does not over-react based on psychological factors, driven by some traders in the market,” the UAE’s energy minister Suhail al-Mazrouei said on Monday.

But the virus has progressed since then, and so too has the effects on demand. With the death toll reaching 132 and the number of infected reaching nearly 6,000, many flights have been cancelled to and from China, posing a tangible threat to jet fuel demand.

The decision about moving the meeting up will be made “in the coming days” Arkab said.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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