| 22 June 2024, Saturday |

Saudi Arabia’s ‘icing on the cake’ oil cut could feed US producers

Saudi Arabia has crafted a complex OPEC+ deal with a view to punishing investors that have bet on falling oil prices but could inadvertently lend long-term support to the rival U.S. energy industry, OPEC+ insiders and market watchers said.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia pledged to cut its oil output by 1 million barrels per day (bpd), or 10%, in July on top of existing output cuts from OPEC and its allies. With the new Saudi reduction, the group has agreed to take some 4.6 million bpd off the market in July, equivalent to 4.6% of global demand of 100 million bpd.

OPEC+ also agreed on Sunday to extend the group’s existing supply cuts of 3.66 million bpd into 2024.

In response, oil prices rose nearly $2 a barrel early on Monday to $78 per barrel . Analysts said the gains are only the beginning and the cuts will steadily deepen a global supply shortfall that could push prices towards $100 a barrel.

“This market needs stabilization,” Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said on Sunday, calling his surprise decision to deepen Saudi production cuts “the icing on the cake” for the deal.

Prince Abdulaziz has repeatedly expressed anger and pledged to punish short-sellers of oil that bet on price falls. Prices had fallen in recent weeks to close to $70 per barrel from over $130 a year ago when Russia invaded Ukraine.

“The Saudi move was driven by the desire to deter short-sellers from pushing the price any lower,” a source familiar with OPEC+ strategy said on condition of anonymity.

“The size of (the Saudi) reduction is credible and should at minimum limit the downside pressure on prices for the rest of the year,” Natasha Kaneva at JP Morgan said. Unexpected price rises force short-sellers to close positions at a loss.

OPEC says it does not have any oil price target and its policy decisions are to prevent volatility by balancing supply and and demand.

“(The cut) clearly reflects the angst and frustration amongst producers, particularly of Saudi Arabia, of sliding prices,” Tamas Varga from PVM brokerage said, adding that Riyadh needs prices of $80 per barrel to balance its budget, according to the IMF estimates.

Previous cuts by the group have triggered heavy criticism from the United States and other consuming nations that have accused it undermining the global economy by driving energy costs higher.

OPEC+ ministers have responded by saying they are defending their own interests and that they need to provide conditions for long-term investment in the oil and gas sector.

They also say piecemeal policies to shift to low carbon energy have discouraged investment and could lead to shortages in future supply before the world is ready to live without oil.

  • Reuters