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OPEC Confounds Skeptics, Agreeing to First Oil Cuts in 8 Years

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  • OPEC Confounds Skeptics, Agreeing to First Oil Cuts in 8 Years

OPEC confounded its doubters and sent crude oil prices soaring by agreeing to its first production cuts in eight years.

The deal, designed to drain record global oil inventories, overcame disagreements between the group’s three largest producers — Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq — and ended a flirtation with free markets that started in 2014. It was also broader than many had expected, extending beyond OPEC. Most strikingly, Russia agreed to unprecedented cuts to its own output.

The impact on the energy world was immediate: benchmark oil prices gained as much as 10 percent in New York and the share prices of energy companies around the globe jumped alongside the currencies of large exporters. Whether that’s sustained will depend on how strictly members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries stick to the agreement, something they haven’t always done in the past.

“This should be a wake-up call for skeptics who have argued the death of OPEC,” said Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at Energy Aspects Ltd. “The group wants to push inventories down.”

OPEC will reduce output by about 1.2 million barrels a day by January, the group said, fulfilling a plan sketched out in Algiers in September to cut its production to 32.5 million barrels. The agreement exempted Nigeria and Libya, but gave Iraq its first quotas since the 1990s.

After weeks of often tense negotiations, the eventual alignment of OPEC’s biggest producers points to the increasing dominance of Iran among the group’s top ranks. It’s allowed to raise output to about 3.8 million barrels a day, a victory for a country that’s long sought special treatment as it recovers from sanctions. Saudi Arabia previously proposed that its regional rival limit output to 3.707 million barrels a day, delegates said.

The economics of the deal are “incredibly appealing,” Jeff Currie, global head of commodities research at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. The main aim of the cuts is “inventory normalization,” he said.

Across the U.S. shale path, the OPEC cut trigger a huge equity rally. Whiting Petroleum Corp. rose as much as 32 percent — its biggest one-day jump in 13 years — while Continental Resources Inc., the company founded by Donald Trump’s adviser Harold Hamm, gained as much as 25 percent, the most since 2008.

Saudi Arabia, which raised oil production to a record this year, will reduce output by 486,000 barrels a day to 10.058 million a day, an OPEC document shows. Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest producer, agreed to cut by 210,000 barrels a day from October levels. The country had previously pushed for special consideration, citing the urgency of its offensive against Islamic State.

Bullish Deal

The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait will reduce output by 139,000 barrels a day and 131,000 a day, respectively, the document shows. Non-member Russia, also pumping at a post-Soviet record, will cut by as much as 300,000 barrels a day “conditional on its technical abilities,” Energy Minister Alexander Novak said in Moscow.

“What was announced so far is bullish, but January is still far away,” said Giovanni Staunovo, an analyst at UBS Group AG. “December will still see ongoing record production, but market participants might ignore it. It does seem as though Russia will cut, which if implemented is also positive.”

Russia, the biggest producer outside the bloc, had previously resisted calls to trim its production, insisting it would only consider a freeze. OPEC plans to hold talks with non-0PEC producers next week in Doha.

The strength of the deal will depend on whether all parties deliver on their commitment. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, the U.A.E. and Kuwait, have traditionally stuck to their cuts, but some others haven’t, particularly when prices are low. Any doubt in the market could once again see prices come under pressure.

The last two years have been painful for OPEC: The group will earn $341 billion from oil exports this year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That’s down from $753 billion in 2014 before prices crashed, and a record $920 billion in 2012.

The group will meet again on May 25 next year, at which point it intends to extend the cuts by another six months, Qatari Energy Minister Mohammed Al Sada told reporters in Vienna.

Indonesia requested a freeze of its OPEC membership. Its suspension won’t affect the size of the group’s production cut, one delegate said.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Crude Oil

Oil Dips Below $62 in New York Though Banks Say Rally Can Extend

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Oil Dips Below $62 in New York Though Banks Say Rally Can Extend

Oil retreated from an earlier rally with investment banks and traders predicting the market can go significantly higher in the months to come.

Futures in New York pared much of an earlier increase to $63 a barrel as the dollar climbed and equities slipped. Bank of America said prices could reach $70 at some point this year, while Socar Trading SA sees global benchmark Brent hitting $80 a barrel before the end of the year as the glut of inventories built up during the Covid-19 pandemic is drained by the summer.

The loss of oil output after the big freeze in the U.S. should help the market firm as much of the world emerges from lockdowns, according to Trafigura Group. Inventory data due later Tuesday from the American Petroleum Institute and more from the Energy Department on Wednesday will shed more light on how the Texas freeze disrupted U.S. oil supply last week.

Oil has surged this year after Saudi Arabia pledged to unilaterally cut 1 million barrels a day in February and March, with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicting the rally will accelerate as demand outpaces global supply. Russia and Riyadh, however, will next week once again head into an OPEC+ meeting with differing opinions about adding more crude to the market.

“The freeze in the U.S. has proved supportive as production was cut,” said Hans van Cleef, senior energy economist at ABN Amro. “We still expect that Russia will push for a significant rise in production,” which could soon weigh on prices, he said.

PRICES

  • West Texas Intermediate for April fell 27 cents to $61.43 a barrel at 9:20 a.m. New York time
  • Brent for April settlement fell 8 cents to $65.16

Brent’s prompt timespread firmed in a bullish backwardation structure to the widest in more than a year. The gap rose above $1 a barrel on Tuesday before easing to 87 cents. That compares with 25 cents at the start of the month.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. and oil trader Vitol Group shot down talk of a new oil supercycle, though they said a lack of supply response will keep prices for crude prices firm in the short term.

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Crude Oil

Oil Prices Rise With Storm-hit U.S. Output Set for Slow Return

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Crude oil

Oil Prices Rise With Storm-hit U.S. Output Set for Slow Return

Oil prices rose on Monday as the slow return of U.S. crude output cut by frigid conditions served as a reminder of the tight supply situation, just as demand recovers from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brent crude was up $1.38, or 2.2%, at $64.29 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate gained $1.38, or 2.33%, to trade at $60.62 per barrel.

Abnormally cold weather in Texas and the Plains states forced the shutdown of up to 4 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude production along with 21 billion cubic feet of natural gas output, analysts estimated.

Shale oil producers in the region could take at least two weeks to restart the more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude output affected, sources said, as frozen pipes and power supply interruptions slow their recovery.

“With three-quarters of fracking crews standing down, the likelihood of a fast resumption is low,” ANZ Research said in a note.

For the first time since November, U.S. drilling companies cut the number of oil rigs operating due to the cold and snow enveloping Texas, New Mexico and other energy-producing centres.

OPEC+ oil producers are set to meet on March 4, with sources saying the group is likely to ease curbs on supply after April given a recovery in prices, although any increase in output will likely be modest given lingering uncertainty over the pandemic.

“Saudi Arabia is eager to pursue yet higher prices in order to cover its social break-even expenses at around $80 a barrel while Russia is strongly focused on unwinding current cuts and getting back to normal production,” said SEB chief commodity analyst Bjarne Schieldrop.

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Crude Oil

Crude Oil Rose Above $65 Per Barrel as US Production Drop Due to Texas Weather

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Crude Oil Rose Above $65 Per Barrel as US Production Drop Due to Texas Weather

Oil prices rose to $65.47 per barrel on Thursday as crude oil production dropped in the US due to frigid Texas weather.

The unusual weather has left millions in the dark and forced oil producers to shut down production. According to reports, at least the winter blast has claimed 24 lives.

Brent crude oil gained $2 to $65.47 on Thursday morning before pulling back to $64.62 per barrel around 11:00 am Nigerian time.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 2.3 percent to settle at $61.74 per barrel.

“This has just sent us to the next level,” said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York. “Crude oil WTI will probably max out somewhere pretty close to $65.65, refinery utilization rate will probably slide to somewhere around 76%,” Yawger said.

However, the report that Saudi Arabia plans to increase production in the coming months weighed on crude oil as it can be seen in the chart below.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabian Energy Minister, warned that it was too early to declare victory against the COVID-19 virus and that oil producers must remain “extremely cautious”.

“We are in a much better place than we were a year ago, but I must warn, once again, against complacency. The uncertainty is very high, and we have to be extremely cautious,” he told an energy industry event.

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