Ministers set production cut agenda for OPEC meeting

The meeting Thursday in Vienna by ministers of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies – in the backdrop of an uptick in oil prices amid signs that a destabilising global glut is receding – is expected to determine the extension of output cuts beyond March 2018, and the inclusion of Libya and Nigeria to the group implementing the cuts.

At the meeting in Vienna, “an extension of the agreement or an increase in the cuts may be announced,” said Jeffrey Halley of futures brokerage Oanda.

“A failure to commit to extending the deal beyond March would be a bearish outcome,” said Helima Croft, head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets.

The crucial production cut spearheaded by the OPEC and Russia since January 2017, in an effort to rebalance world markets and ending a price rout that has battered oil producers’ economies since 2014, was as deep as 1.8 million barrels a day.

While crude prices rebounded to a three-month high and the world’s bloated fuel inventories are shrinking, some analysts argue that as US shale oil continues to thrive and seasonal demand wanes, the surplus that has weighed on markets for three years looks set to come back.

On the eve of the meeting, oil prices slipped on Thursday, giving up some recent gains before the meeting today. Brent crude oil was down 40 cents at $55.89 a barrel by 1115 GMT. US light crude was 50 cents lower at $50.19.

Kuwaiti Oil Minister Issam Almarzooq said that Friday’s meeting won’t make a recommendation on whether to change the deal. Ruling out any decision on further cuts or extension at today’s meeting, analysts said any changes to the agreement likely would not be voted on until the bloc’s next full summit on November 30,


“Amid strong signals that nine months of production cuts are finally paying off, the mood tomorrow is predicted to be a blend of optimism and confidence and officials will be looking at much more favorable market indicators than at previous meetings,” an oil market expert said.

“OPEC has done very well – finally,” said Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at consultant Energy Aspects Ltd. “The price of oil has recovered quite a bit, but more importantly I’d say the physical market has recovered quite substantially.”

At today’s meeting, all eyes would be on representatives from Nigeria and Libya – both of which are exempt from the cuts as the nations’ recover from civil unrest – to assess their production outlooks.

Nigeria’s oil minister, Emmanuel Kachikwu, stated that his country could not join the production cuts at least until after March 2018, because it needs additional “recovery time” from the outages caused by other militants in that country. This could present a problem at the meeting, because non-OPEC participants have long seen the exemptions given to Libya and Nigeria as unfair.

Analysts said in the next two months traders should keep an eye on the statements coming from OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers. Statements affirming commitment to the deal from oil producers should move oil higher. “A positive statement from Nigeria or Libya regarding any intention to participate in the deal should also cause oil prices to move higher. On the other hand, negative statements from Libya, Nigeria or Kazakhstan that undermine support for the deal could move oil prices lower.”

As a result of the deep cuts over nine months, the surplus in oil stockpiles – the main metric for assessing the deal – has diminished. Excess inventories in developed economies, measured against their five-year average, have declined by about 74 million barrels, or 28 percent, since the start of the year, according to the International Energy Agency, which advises most major economies on energy policy.

Depleting stockpiles are being reflected in prices. Brent crude, the international benchmark, has gained more than 20 per cent since June 21 to $55.65 a barrel in London.

OPEC’s total crude oil output fell in August for the first time in five months to 32.65 million b/d, down 170,000 b/d from June, according to the latest Platts OPEC survey.



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