January 25, 2008 / 5:59 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 1-OPEC to monitor US price impact - Venezuela oil min

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CARACAS, Jan 25 (Reuters) - OPEC will monitor the impact on oil prices of a U.S. economic slowdown at its meeting next month, although it is premature to say if America’s problems will hurt crude values, Venezuela’s energy minister said on Friday.

The minister, Rafael Ramirez, also said OPEC should not agree to hike its output at the meeting in Vienna on Feb. 1. Turmoil in world markets meant there was too much uncertainty over where the world’s economies were heading for the export group to be able to take a clear decision, he said.

“Nevertheless, in the next meeting, OPEC will evaluate the possible (U.S.) impact on the energy market,” Ramirez told reporters.

Venezuela is a price hawk in OPEC and opposes the United States on everything from free trade to democracy despite being its No. 4 supplier of crude.

Many economists believe a slowdown in the United States will lower demand for oil and help reduce prices.

On Thursday, Venezuela’s economy minister said the government was anticipating some impact on prices but believed it would not be severe because demand would remain high from India and China.

Oil reached a record $100 a barrel early this month, prompting consumer nations to increase pressure on OPEC for a supply hike. But fears of a U.S. recession have since helped pull prices below $90 a barrel. (Reporting by Saul Hudson; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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