LONDON OPEC will need to pump slightly more oil than it thought in 2013 and expects global consumption to be much higher in the rest of the year, signs of a stronger market that argue against any calls for supply restraint when the group meets on May 31.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in a monthly report on Friday forecast 2013 demand for its crude will average 29.84 million barrels per day (bpd), up 90,000 bpd from the previous estimate.
Both world oil demand and the demand for OPEC oil will increase in coming months. The average requirement for OPEC's crude in the second half will be 30.47 million bpd, up from 29.14 million bpd in the current quarter.
Saudi Arabia's oil minister, in a speech in Ankara on Friday, said the outlook was brighter for big economies such as top oil consumer the United States, even though Europe was still struggling.
"Europe continues to grapple with austerity and anemic levels of growth. That said, other regions are showing signs of progress," Ali al-Naimi said. "Major economies are leading the way and the U.S. economy is improving."
Oil has dropped to just above $103 a barrel from almost $120 at the start of February, worrying some in OPEC. But the expectation of stronger demand later in 2013 argues against any suggestion of lowering output, say OPEC officials.
"On production issues, demand is expected to pick up, so most likely another rollover," said an OPEC delegate of the outcome of the group's meeting in Vienna.
OPEC for now is pumping more oil than its 30 million bpd official target. Output rose by 280,000 bpd in April to 30.46 million bpd, according to secondary sources cited by the report, led by higher output in Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
While higher than the current demand for OPEC crude, that output rate would match the average requirement in the second half of 2013.
OPEC held its forecast for growth in world demand unchanged at 800,000 bpd and repeated a warning that the rate of expansion could underperform due to the euro zone's economic problems and uncertainties about China.
Another oil forecaster closely watched by the market, the U.S. government's Energy Information Administration, took a more bearish view on demand growth in its report on Tuesday, cutting its forecast by 70,000 bpd to 890,000 bpd. <EIA/M>
The third of this month's trio of reports, from the International Energy Agency, is due next Tuesday.
(Additional reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley and Amena Bakr in Dubai; editing by William Hardy)