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Headlines have indicated that crude prices have slid again on the basis of OPEC's inaction this past weekend in Cairo. But the situation isn't that simple, since cartel members plan to meet in Algeria in just a couple of weeks and almost certainly will then cut output from current levels -- perhaps substantially.
Let's review the bidding here: At this point, the world is using in the vicinity of 86 million barrels a day of oil, of which the 13 OPEC nations produce about 40%. For perspective, ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) , the world's largest private oil company, produced the equivalent of slightly less than 2.3 million barrels of oil a day in the most recent quarter. Big Oil peers Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) and ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP ) each produced less.
Nevertheless, as you well know, crude prices have plummeted from above $145 a barrel in July to a level just above $50. The current price is well below what some OPEC countries -- especially Iran and Venezuela -- need to balance their budgets, so there had been a push for the Cairo session, with at least the two above-named members striving for an immediate third production cut, following September and October chops.
Or at least, that was the theory. The difficulty is that some of OPEC's cash-starved members apparently haven't reduced their production as they'd promised. Nevertheless -- and this, from my perspective, sets up a potentially attractive opportunity for Foolish energy investors -- the group will meet again on Dec. 17.
And perhaps more importantly, Saudi officials have taken a rare step in suggesting that $75 a barrel -- about 50% above today's rate -- is a desirable level for crude. The Saudis, OPEC's de facto leaders, have generally avoided advertising what they believe to be an ideal price.
But as all Fools can determine readily, the 17th is right around the corner. And it appears that the cartel's members -- along with their supporters, including Russia -- concur that another production cut should be agreed to at that time. That, it seems, provides Foolish energy investors with an ideal opportunity to study the energy sector and line up names that appear to have an upside over, say, the next year or two.
Of my favorites, BP and Schlumberger have been accorded five stars by Motley Fool CAPS players, while Exxon and Halliburton each wear four. Do those ratings include your vote?
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