LONDON The world's top oil forecasters this week all cut their 2013 oil demand forecasts due to subdued economic growth, with the figures showing increasing similarity in the views of producers and consumers.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) on Thursday trimmed its global oil demand growth estimate, which followed similar moves by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
A growing resemblance in the outlook of the IEA, which represents 28 industrialised countries, and producer group OPEC contrasts with past disagreements.
Observers said it might reflect efforts to increase transparency in the oil market - notoriously murky and hard to forecast - such as the Joint Organisations Data Initiative.
"There is a lot of convergence now on the OPEC and IEA view on the oil market," said Olivier Jakob, an analyst at Petromatrix. "They are using the same figures more and more and being very polite to each other too."
World oil use will rise by 795,000 barrels per day (bpd) this year, Paris-based IEA said in a monthly report. That is 25,000 bpd less than it estimated last month and a third straight reduction.
The IEA now has virtually the same view on demand as OPEC, which in a report on Wednesday lowered its consumption growth forecast to 800,000 bpd. The EIA on Tuesday lowered its estimate by 50,000 bpd to 960,000 bpd.
OPEC and the IEA clashed in June 2011 when the IEA predicted a steep rise in demand and called on OPEC to help replace lost Libyan output and prevent a jump in oil prices that could hit the global economy.
The producer group rejected the pressure and failed to agree on new output targets. The IEA decided to release oil from emergency reserves held by its member-countries in case of supply breaks, which further angered OPEC.
OPEC and the IEA also have a similar view on the amount of oil OPEC needs to pump this year to balance supply and demand. Both see demand for OPEC oil at 29.7 million bpd in 2013.
Oil prices are trading just over $105 a barrel, down from a 2013 high of $119.17 on February 8, partly due to concerns that global economic recovery will be weak. The IEA warned it was too early to call a bear market, citing supply risks.
The agency lowered its oil supply forecast for countries outside OPEC this year for the first time in several months and said worsening security in Libya and oil theft in Nigeria had contributed to a decline in OPEC output last month.
"There are signs that some of the recent easing of upward price pressures could be relatively short�lived," the IEA said. "Crude supply risk remains elevated."
OPEC output declined by 140,000 bpd in March to 30.44 million bpd, according to the IEA, led by falls in Nigeria, Libya and Iraq, despite a slight increase from top exporter Saudi Arabia.
The IEA also estimated exports from Iran - under U.S. and European sanctions over its nuclear work - fell in March to 1.1 million bpd from 1.26 million bpd in February.
(Editing by James Jukwey and Jane Baird)