Business Maverick

Business Maverick

Oil’s Worst Week Since 2014 Puts Pressure on OPEC+ to Respond

Gas flares burn from pipes aboard an offshore oil platform in the Persian Gulf's Salman Oil Field, operated by the National Iranian Offshore Oil Co., near Lavan island, Iran, on Thursday, Jan. 5. 2017. Nov. 5 is the day when sweeping U.S. sanctions on Irans energy and banking sectors go back into effect after Trumps decision in May to walk away from the six-nation deal with Iran that suspended them. Photographer: Ali Mohammadi/Bloomberg

Oil was on course for its biggest weekly loss since 2014 as the fast-spreading coronavirus roiled global markets, intensifying speculation that OPEC and its allies will strike a deal to support prices.

Oil futures in New York fell a sixth day after fears over the outbreak sent shares on Wall Street down by the most in almost a decade. With crude prices briefly dipping below $46 a barrel on Thursday, there were signs that OPEC and its allies could be nearing agreement on action to stem the rout before their meeting in Vienna next week.
Oil is on track for the worst weekly loss since 2014

The group’s top official said the cartel and its allies are displaying a “renewed commitment” to reach an accord as the virus puts the world economy on course for its worst performance since 2009. Saudi Arabia has been pushing for deeper production cuts over the last few weeks, but Russia has so far taken a more cautious stance. One silver lining for markets is that prices are now at a level that may be uneconomic for U.S. shale producers.

“Whatever production cuts that might be forthcoming next week are too little too late, given how oil prices have declined so rapidly,” said Howie Lee, an economist at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. in Singapore. “If OPEC+ cuts by 1 million barrels, that can shore up prices a little, but anything less is going to disappoint.”

West Texas Intermediate futures for April delivery fell 1.4% to $46.41 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as of 10:43 a.m. in Singapore. They closed down 3.4% on Thursday and have lost around 13% this week, the most since November 2014.

Brent for April settlement dropped 1.5% to $51.40 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange after falling 2.3% on Thursday. It’s down about 12% for the week. The global crude benchmark traded at a $4.99 premium to WTI.

OPEC oil production is already at lowest since 2009

The OPEC+ talks are scheduled for March 5-6 after Russia, whose budget is more resilient to lower oil prices, rebuffed pressure from Saudi Arabia for an earlier emergency meeting to deal with the outbreak. Combined OPEC output, not including Russia and other allied producers, is already at the lowest level since 2009.

The kingdom is now pushing for collective OPEC+ production cuts of an additional 1 million barrels a day, which it would bear the brunt of, according to a report in the Financial Times. That’s more than the 600,000 barrels per day of reductions that were recommended earlier this month by an OPEC+ technical panel.

Oil market drivers
  • The Trump administration is ready to unleash the full impact of sanctions on Chevron Corp.’s operations in Venezuela as the U.S. seeks to further squeeze the Maduro regime
  • Russia’s average oil production so far this month fell for the first time since October as the nation prepares for OPEC+ talks in Vienna that may result in deeper output cuts for the group
  • Asian oil refiners outside of China are reeling as the rapid spread of the coronavirus coincides with a warmer-than-normal winter.
  • Crude futures fell 2.2% to 360.5 yuan a barrel on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange, taking the weekly decline to around 13%.

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