OPEC on Saturday readied an agreement to leave oil production restraints in place, despite a recent surge in crude prices to $90 a barrel.
The 12-member Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries gathers at 0900 (9:00 a.m. EST) in Quito, Ecuador and ministers will go into closed session around 1000 for what would appear to be a straightforward decision.
According to the market situation and the economic recession ... the prediction is that there will be no change in the quotas and there will be no increase in production, said Iranian Oil Minister Massoud Mirkazemi.
Influential Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said on Friday there was absolutely no need to lift output, raising concerns about when OPEC will open the taps to prevent fuel inflation undermining economic recovery.
U.S. crude closed at $87.79 a barrel on Friday have touched a two-year high of $90.76 earlier in the week.
Naimi said in early November that consumers appeared to be coping with prices in a $70-$90 range. But it is not clear if Riyadh is comfortable with $90 or higher for a sustained period.
Clearly prices too high will not help us in the long run, as we saw in 2008, said a Gulf OPEC delegate.
Oil hit a record $147 a barrel in 2008, hitting demand just as economic recession undercut the market and sent crude to a low of under $34 a barrel.
OPEC agreed its biggest ever supply curbs at the end of 2008 and has not changed policy since.
OPEC ministers argue that supplies and inventories are sufficient and some say that speculators are to blame for pushing prices higher.
Inventories held among the industrialized nations of the OECD are high by historic standards at 60 days of forward demand.
But the International Energy Agency, adviser to consumer nations on energy, said on Friday that world demand, bolstered by an early winter cold snap, is rising more quickly than expected.
Extra demand has flattened the oil futures price curve and reduced the discount for prompt crude, cutting the incentive for traders to store crude. That is likely to mean inventories start dropping.
OPEC will also decide the timing of its next meeting. Delegates have said it is not planning to meet before June, an unusually long gap between meetings.
(Additional reporting by Robert Campbell, Daniel Wallis, writing by Richard Mably, editing by Matthew Robinson)