Oil at $65 a barrel may sound alarm bells for OPEC

DOHA Sat May 8, 2010 3:39pm EDT

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DOHA (Reuters) - Oil ministers from several OPEC nations played down on Saturday a sharp fall in prices, but Kuwait said another $10 drop may force the group into action.

U.S. crude oil futures settled at $75.11 a barrel on Friday, posting their largest weekly loss in almost a year and a half, as worries grew that the euro zone's debt crisis might derail the global economic recovery.

Kuwait's oil minister Sheikh Ahmad al-Abdullah al-Sabah said OPEC was likely to call a meeting if crude prices suffered further sharp losses.

"Sixty-five dollars would ring a bell ... and a meeting," he told reporters before an Arab Energy Conference in Doha.

Crude also hit its lowest level since February 16th on Friday at $74.51, just five days after going over $87 a barrel. But the price is now right in the middle of the $70-$80 range that Saudi Arabia has targeted as fair for both consumers and producers.

OPEC is not scheduled to meet formally until October and has kept oil supply targets steady since late 2008.

Oil prices had undergone a correction in the past week and there was no need for OPEC to meet before October, said United Arab Emirates (UAE) Oil Minister Mohammed al-Hamli.

"Prices move up and down, it's a natural correction. The price changes are responding to market forces," he told reporters. "We still believe the market is very well supplied."

Algeria's Oil Minister Chakib Khelil likewise said there was no need for OPEC to take any action at the moment as the price slide had nothing to do with fundamentals.

"All this (economic) uncertainty has led to a decline in the oil price ... I don't think (OPEC) needs to step in," he said.

Khelil said he expected oil prices to be around $80-$85 a barrel for the rest of the year.

The Doha conference from Sunday until Wednesday is not an OPEC gathering, but oil ministers will probably hold informal meetings on the sidelines of the event.

Ministers from OPEC members Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Algeria, Iraq, the UAE and Libya are expected to attend.

Saudi Arabia's oil minister Ali al-Naimi declined to comment on the price fall.

Higher prices have encouraged some members to boost output informally, but core Gulf Arab members Saudi, the UAE and Kuwait have stuck to output restraints.

(Additional reporting by Amena Bakr)

(Reporting by Simon Webb and Regan E. Doherty; Editing by David Stamp)

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