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The European debt crisis and sluggish economic growth in Japan during the past couple years has contributed to a decline in oil demand in these regions. Struggling to maintain market share in a shrinking market and with new production capacity from the US, OPEC members voted in November 2014 against changing the cartel's official production target. OPEC justified the decision on the strong need to balance member government budgets, which are highly dependent on oil revenue, and on allowing markets to favor lower cost oil producers. 

As a result, in 2014, global oil supply exceeded demand by 1.0-1.5 million b/d. By early 2015, the oversupply increased to 2.4 million b/d before rising still further to 2.9 million b/d during the second quarter, according to the latest OPEC estimates*. Sustained downward pressure on global oil prices is being maintained on multiple fronts, including sticky US production levels, contagion risk to European economies of a potential Greek exit from the Eurozone, and broad expectations of an imminent, unencumbered return of Iran to global oil markets. If Western sanctions affecting Iranian oil production and trade are lifted, Iran could contribute upwards of an additional 1 million b/d of oil to markets by late 2016, curtailing the broadly expected global oil price recovery to averages above those experienced in 2015.

* Note: Oil supply estimates include the production of crude oil (including lease condensate), natural gas plant liquids, and other liquids, and refinery processing gain. For individual member countries OPEC provides only data on crude oil production levels.

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