Russia and 3 OPEC Members Agree to Freeze Oil Output

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from The New York Times,

As prices have dropped ever lower, smaller oil producing nations on precarious financial ground have regularly pushed their bigger brethren to stop pumping at record levels and help calm the markets.

Now, even the giants are joining the chorus, with Saudi Arabia and Russia on Tuesday calling for a coordinated effort to freeze production.

The plan, which also included Venezuela and Qatar, is a tentative sign that major oil producers are ready to cooperate. And it indicates how deeply prices have fallen, as Russia and Saudi Arabia have previously resisted tempering production.

But whether the plan actually goes anywhere — or is just chatter meant to bolster prices — is an open debate. The four countries said they would proceed only if others commit.

It is not an easy sell.

Iraq has a longstanding policy of seeking to raise production regardless of the price-stabilizing policies of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, to which it belongs. And Iran has staked out a policy of increasing oil exports now that sanctions have been lifted as part of its nuclear deal.

“It throws the ball in Iran’s court, because they have said their output is going to increase,” said Bhushan Bahree, an oil analyst at IHS, a research firm in Washington.

The markets have little confidence in the plan.

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