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OPEC oil meeting: 7 things you need to know

All eyes will once again be on Vienna

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries faces a difficult task on Wednesday when the 14 members of the oil-producing group gather to complete a preliminary agreement reached two months ago.

OPEC outlined a deal in late September to target production at between 32.5 million and 33 millions barrels a day, setting an end-of-November date to hash out details. Prices since then have gyrated in response to waxing and waning expectations for a final agreement, with moves often driven by the latest pronouncements by major players.

“This is the most difficult OPEC meeting in decades because they are starting from scratch,” said James Williams, energy economist at WTRG Economics. “It is not just an adjustment to current quotas because individual members have not had or needed one for years.” OPEC’s last output cut was announced in December 2008.

Oil futures saw whipsaw price action Monday, with the U.S. CLF7, +1.72% and global LCOF7, +1.61% crude benchmarks jumping more than 2% to take back much of Friday’s slump.

Indeed, the difficultly of that undertaking has been apparent in the weeks since the preliminary pact, with various oil producers voicing support for the deal on one day, but then sounding unwilling to cooperate on another. Estimates on the group’s collective output have also shown that OPEC has raised output to record levels, with the International Energy Agency pegging production at 33.83 million barrels a day in October.

“After months of uncertainty and speculation, you would think there will be some clarity about the crude-oil situation just days ahead of Wednesday’s OPEC meeting,” said Fawad Razaqzada, technical analyst at, in a Monday note. “Well, you would be wrong. In fact, very wrong.”

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Saudi Arabia was backing an effort to make the steepest oil-production cuts possible at the meeting and hoping to convince non-OPEC producers to help remove almost 2% of the world’s oil supply.

But the news agency also reported that day that the Saudis, the largest producer in OPEC, would’t be attending a meeting Monday with non-OPEC Russia, whose cooperation has been seen as key to coming up with a final OPEC output deal. The refusal fed...