OPEC crude production rises to five-month high on Saudi increase

OPEC boosted crude output in April to the highest in five months as Saudi Arabia increased production, helping lower oil prices amid concern that global economic growth is slowing.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries produced 30.46 million barrels a day last month, up from 30.18 million in March, the group’s Vienna-based secretariat said today in its Monthly Oil Market Report. That’s the most since November. The estimates are based on secondary sources.

Brent crude slipped 7 percent last month as Europe struggled to move beyond its debt crisis and China’s growth and manufacturing showed signs of a slowdown. The drop brings prices closer to the $100-a-barrel target Saudi Arabia’s Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi described as “reasonable” for consumers and producers. Brent, the benchmark for more than half of the world’s oil, traded at about $104 today on the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London.

“The continued decline in the eurozone, the significant deceleration in the first quarter in some of the Asian economies and the recently acknowledged slowdown in Russia all have the potential to again push growth down,” according to OPEC, which supplies about 40 percent of the world’s oil.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude exporter, pumped 9.27 million barrels a day in April, rising from 9.13 million in March, OPEC said. That’s the most since November and compares with the country’s own figure of 9.31 million barrels based on its direct communication with the group.

Fragile Recovery

Global oil demand is forecast to rise 800,000 barrels a day to 89.66 million barrels a day this year, little changed from last month’s estimate.

“A fragile recovery in the global economy has been visible since the beginning of the year, but momentum has started slowing again and growth risks are skewed to the downside,” the organization said.

Global demand for OPEC’s crude is forecast to reach 29.84 million barrels a day in 2013, revised up by 100,000 barrels a day from last month’s report, OPEC said. That reflects a drop from 30.23 million last year, the group said.

The report was edited by Oswaldo Tapia, who is listed as “in charge” of OPEC’s research division. The group appointed Saudi Arabia’s Omar Abdulhamid this month as head of research to replace Kuwait’s Hasan Qabazard, according to two people with knowledge of OPEC policy who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

OPEC’s members are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. They will meet on May 31 in Vienna to discuss production policy after keeping their collective target at 30 million barrels a day in December.

The International Energy Agency in Paris will release its monthly and medium-term oil market reports on May 14.