Russia's Novak: can't say if it's time to deepen oil output cuts

FILE PHOTO: Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak attends a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russia June 6, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia (Reuters) - Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Tuesday that he could not say for sure if it was time to tighten oil output curbs amid an outbreak of a new coronavirus and slump in oil prices.

He also said that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies led by Russia, a group known as OPEC+, might convene before the meeting which is currently scheduled for early March.

Three OPEC+ sources and a industry source familiar with the discussions told Reuters on Monday that OPEC+ were considering cutting their oil output by a further 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) due to the impact on oil demand from the coronavirus.

“I can’t tell you about concrete proposals... It is important now to evaluate the situation and evaluate the right forecasts. There are lots of uncertainties, maybe those are panic attacks,” Novak told reporters.

Oil prices clawed back ground on Tuesday amid hopes for new output curbs from OPEC+ following their extended slide over the last two weeks on concern about the global economic impact of China’s coronavirus. Crude prices on Monday fell to their lowest level in more than a year.

The Joint Technical Committee (JTC) of the OPEC+ is meeting over Feb. 4-5 in Vienna to assess the impact on oil demand from the coronavirus.

Novak said that once the JTC gathering is over, the OPEC+ may discuss holding an early meeting.

Reporting by Olesya Astakhova; writing by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Jason Neely