OPEC move—too little too late?


Crude prices settled on a mixed note Monday, with global prices higher but U.S. prices down as pressure from the drop in oil demand, from efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, more than offset support from a historic agreement by major oil producers to cut oil production.

After an initial 4% surge that was followed by a tumble into negative territory, West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery CLK20, -1.49% lost 35 cents, or 1.5%, to settle at $22.41 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. June Brent crude BRNM20, +0.34%, the global benchmark, climbed by 26 cents, or 0.8%, at $31.74 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.

Analysts from Goldman Sachs and elsewhere said the OPEC+ move was “too little, too late” after weeks of a damaging price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

After several days of intense negotiations, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, collectively known as OPEC+, agreed Sunday to cut overall crude-oil production by 9.7 million barrels a day starting on May 1 through June 30 of this year.

That total cuts would decline to around 8 million barrels a day from July 1 through Dec. 31, followed by a smaller 6 million barrels in cuts from Jan. 1, 2021 to April 30, 2022. Analysts feared lack of a deal could have ended in a collapse of prices on Monday, but some see oil prices still under pressured, given demand has been crushed by coronavirus-driven economic shutdowns.

Sunday’s deal came after President Donald Trump intervened to take on what Mexico couldn’t contribute to the proposed cuts.

In a tweet on Monday, however, Trump “the number that OPEC+ is looking to cut is 20 Million Barrels per day, not the 10 Million that is generally reported.”

The non-OPEC production commitments by Brazil and Norway, and the “natural production destruction” from the low oil prices could be estimated at around 5 million barrels per day, but saying that equates to a 20 million-barrel per day cut would be a bit of a “stretch,” said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at The Price Futures Group.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, said that the global oil supply cuts would amount to roughly 19.5 million barrels per day, considering the OPEC+ output-cut deal, pledges by other Group of 20 nations and oil purchases into petroleum reserves, Reuters reported Monday.

The news report also said he told reporters that G-20 nations outside of OPEC+ pledged to cut about 3.7 million barrels per day of oil supply and that oil purchases into oil reserve were seen at 200 million barrels over the next couple of months, according to the International Energy Agency.

Given the difficulty for most producers outside of core-OPEC to implement large cuts, the OPEC+ agreement “leaves the voluntary cuts as still too little and too late to avoid breaching storage capacity, ensuring that low oil prices force all producers to contribute to the market rebalancing,” said Damien Courvalin, Callum Bruce and Jeffrey Currie, analysts at Goldman Sachs, in a note to clients.

“Ultimately, this simply reflects that no voluntary cuts could be large enough to offset the 19 mb/d average April-May demand loss due to the coronavirus. We therefore reiterate our view that inland crude prices will decline further in coming weeks as storage capacity becomes saturated and expect further weakness in WTI timespreads and crude prices in coming weeks, as already presaged on Friday, with downside risks to our short-term $20/bbl forecast,” said the team.

A shutdown of major global economies due to the deadly coronavirus has taken a heavy toll on oil demand.

The decline in demand has led to a drop in U.S. oil prices of more than 60% so far this year and the Energy Information Administration on Tuesday said crude-oil production from seven major U.S. shale plays is forecast to decline by 183,000 barrels a day in May to 8.526 million barrels a day.

“If COVID-19 continues to be top-of-mind concern, weak oil prices and a lack of storage will push output lower,” said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at IHS Markit’s Oil Price Information Service.

The Railroad Commission of Texas, which regulates the oil-and-gas industry, will hold hearing Tuesday that may result in limits to the state’s oil production.

Source: Market Watch