The OPEC oil cartel met over the weekend and decided to leave production levels unchanged for now, which may help lend some stability to prices as we enter the driving season. Oil is now selling for about $47 per barrel and has been relatively unchanged since the beginning of December. Back in September, when OPEC decided to trim its output (they cut it again in December), oil sold for around $110 per barrel.
OPEC accounts for 40 percent of world oil supplies, so its output can significantly impact prices. Right now there's a tug of war going on between the world economy and OPEC, with lower OPEC production supporting prices and the sagging economy and weaker oil demand exerting downward pressure. Some group members favor further production cuts to lower supply and raise their oil prices. But, higher prices could be devastating to economies struggling to cope with sharply lower consumer spending.
Not all members of the cartel have fully complied with previously agreed cuts, so for now the cartel is concentrating on improving that compliance. Actual OPEC oil output may decline a little more as a result, but not as much as it would have if the group had decided this past weekend to lower its production quotas. So, relative price stability may be around for a while, at least until the next scheduled OPEC meeting in May.