Oil prices up despite OPEC production boost; Venezuela unrest continues

| Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Crude oil prices moved up nearly 2 percent Jan. 13 to $32.26 a barrel as traders remained skeptical that new production would immediately make a difference. Overall, oil prices have increased 64 percent in the past year.

In an emergency meeting Jan. 12, OPEC agreed to raise production by 1.5 million barrels a day in response to the supply loss caused by a strike in Venezuela.

Oil traders also bid up prices after reports that two Norwegian oil fields in the North Sea would close due to technical problems. This could further trim world oil supplies, despite the OPEC production increase, according to press reports.

Meanwhile, trouble in Venezuela continued as soldiers seized most of the heavy weapons and anti-riot equipment from Caracas' police. This happened after President Hugo Chavez threatened to increase the military's control over the force and accused it of siding with his opponents, The Associated Press reported.

Troops searched most of the capital's police stations at dawn and confiscated all weapons except .38 revolvers, Police Chief Henry Vivas said. The seizure could raise tensions in a 44-day-old general strike aimed at ousting Chavez, which has been marked by almost daily street protests, including clashes between Chavez supporters and opponents.

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