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OPEC sent its strongest signal yet that output cuts will be extended until the end of 2018, saying negotiations are taking their lead from Vladimir Putin's tentative backing for a further nine months of curbs.That statement is the basis for talks ahead of next month's OPEC gathering, led by Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and his Saudi counterpart Khalid al-Falih, OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo said.Mr. Novak is also in extensive consultations with non-OPEC".The 24 oil-producing nations that agreed to cut production last year, initially for a six-month period, have already extended their deal by nine months until the end of March 2018 .The oil inventory surplus in industrialized nations compared with the five-year average has fallen below 160 million barrels, less than half the level at the start of the year.
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