Oil officials from Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela and other OPEC countries to meet today in Doha
Saudi Arabia has agreed to freeze production Reuters

Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi said his country and Russia, the world's two largest crude producers, have agreed to freeze output after holding talks with several members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) in Qatar on 16 February.

Following a meeting with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, Naimi said freezing production at January levels would be an "adequate" measure as Saudi Arabia still intends to meet its customers' demand.

Riyadh officials had previously stated they would not cut production unless fellow Opec members agreed to take similar measures and Venezuela is understood to have lobbied Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia into setting up a meeting in Doha between Opec members and other suppliers in an attempt to find a viable solution to shore up the market.

Oil prices have slumped by 75% over the past 18 months and have fallen by a quarter since the turn of the year, tumbling below the $30 (£20.7, €26.8) a barrel threshold for the first time in a decade but have moved higher over the past two sessions.

Midway through the European morning session on 16 February, West Texas Intermediate was up 0.77% to $29.95 a barrel, while Brent crude gained 1.45% to $33.88 a barrel.

However, while the announcement was obviously taken as a positive sign for the oil market, analysts warned Opec and other producers still faced a number issues, such as getting Iran and Iraq to agree with the latest development.

At the same time, Russia, which allegedly reneged a similar agreement in 2001, will have to play its part if the deal is to be successful, while it is unclear whether non-Opec countries would be willing to participate and, at 33 million barrels per day (bpd), the current Opec production level is already way higher than the 30 million bpd ceiling.

"This deal would simply validate the excess production that is already taking place," said Julian Jessop, head of commodities research at Capital Economics. "This might be better than a further increase, but it is not the output cuts that some in the market have been hoping for."

He added that oil prices were expected to continue a steady recovery over the next 12 months, although they would still fall way short of the level they were at before the current crisis. "We continue to expect prices to recover over the remainder of the year, our end-2016 forecasts for both Brent and WTI are $45 per barrel," he said.

"However, this is based on stronger demand and reductions in non-Opec supply in response to the previous sharp falls in prices. We are not giving much weight to the prospects of a successful deal between Opec and Russia."