David Prosser: Obama's about-turn on oil reserves

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Outlook There's no doubt Opec made a hash of its last meeting in Vienna, where the cartel could not agree on an increase in oil production. Still, the intervention by the IEA yesterday, led by the US, is a curious one. This is only the third time the IEA has released emergency reserves in this way. The last two occasions were in the aftermaths of the first Gulf War and Hurricane Katrina. Is the current situation really of that magnitude?

President Obama said recently he believed interventions of this type should be used only to ease serious supply disruptions rather than to counter prices that IEA members judge to be too high. He now seems to have changed his view. Yesterday's move was both a sop to American motorists and an attempt to bounce Opec into line.

It may yet backfire, particularly since Russia, the world's largest producer, is not necessarily onside.