Friday, March 06, 2020

OPEC+ in waiting mode as Russia plays hardball

Overnight (March 5) OPEC ministers met and proposed a deepening of existing oil production cuts by 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) to their Russia-led OPEC+ partners in an effort to calm the oil market following the coronavirus outbreak and its devastating impact on the global economy.

While the original 'deepening of cuts' proposal was set to last until end-June 2020, OPEC heavyweights met yet again late yesterday evening and announced the proposal would be extended to the end of 2020. 

The burden of 1.5 million bpd, would be shared as 1 million bpd and 0.5 million bpd between OPEC and non-OPEC players respectively. From a headline perspective, if approved the market would be looking at 3.2 million bpd of OPEC+ barrels being taken out of the global supply pool. 

With that the ball went into the Russian court, and that's where it has been since well into today (March 6). In that time, Russian Oil Minister Alexander Novak has gone and returned from Moscow, and an OPEC+ closed-door meeting scheduled to start at 9:30 CET, has yet to get going 14:20 CET!

And the Oilholic has putting his scenarios to colleagues in the broadcast media. 

In one scenario, Russia could say 'nyet' and you'd see bearish headwinds engulf oil futures and driving the price down to $30 per barrel. 

In another scenario, the mammoth cut would proceed providing only temporary relief to oil prices given the full extent of the coronavirus' demand destruction is yet to be clear. Although, Wall Street is belatedly, finally coming to terms with the magnitude of the destruction having ditched its complacency.

Finally, often the favourite colour at these OPEC meetings based on the Oilholic's past experience is grey. OPEC+ could emerge and offer a good old fashioned figures fudge involving OPEC cuts with the support of the Russians, and other non-OPEC players, with very few barrels to show for it. This too will either provide negligible or short-lived support. 

All of this bottles down to one thing - hardly anyone has an accurate handle on where oil demand is going, and the Oilholic believes there will be shrinkage on an annualised basis. Were that to be the case, a 'crude' logic applies - oil supply cuts never really solve a crisis of demand. It's where crude market presently is. OPEC can improve its odds via a cut but can do little more!

And on that note its time to leave Vienna for London, and then on to Houston, all the while keeping an eye on events here. But that's all for the moment folks. Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2020.

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