Saudi Arabia just made it much more likely that OPEC and other oil producers will take action if crude prices weaken.
Word that the cartel will meet on the sidelines of an energy conference in Algeria in late September had already stirred up the oil market this week, but confirmation Thursday from Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih gave much more credibility to the idea that OPEC will consider action if oil prices remain low. West Texas Intermediate futures soared as much as 5 percent in trading Thursday after the Saudi comments, and later settled at $43.49 per barrel, up 4.3 percent.
Some OPEC members, particularly Venezuela, have been pushing the idea of production limits for months, but Saudi Arabia has repeatedly said it would go along only if all producers agreed. Iran, however, has steadfastly refused to accept limits, and it has been aggressively returning oil to the market in an effort to grab back the market share it lost while it was under sanctions for its nuclear program. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia turned up the taps, and its production in July jumped to a record 10.67 billion barrels a day.