OPEC Meeting Ends With Members Agreeing To Bigger Than Expected Production Cut

Update (10:50 am ET): After the bloc had earlier declined to reveal the individual member breakdown for its production cuts, a handful of OPEC members have confirmed their individual quotas at the bloc's post-meeting press conference, which essentially confirmed that the bloc is just trimming back production to levels from before the US reimposed its sanctions on Iran.

  • IRAQ TO CUT OIL PRODUCTION BY ABOUT 140K B/D, MINISTER SAYS
  • RUSSIA TO CUT 230,000 B/D IN OIL-CUT DEAL: IRAQ OIL MINISTER
  • SAUDI ALREADY CUT BY 500K B/D SO TO CUT 200K B/D: IRAQ OIL MIN
  • OPEC SAYS 800K B/D CUT FROM OCT 2018 LEVEL EFFECTIVE JANUARY
  • UAE OIL MINISTER SAYS NON-OPEC TO CUT OUTPUT BY 400K B/D

For context, here's a snapshot of the latest production data (note the post-Iran ramp):

opecc

The bloc's next ordinary meeting will begin in Vienna on April 29.

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Update (9:15 am ET): In a surprising decision that's bound to confuse oil traders, OPEC has reportedly said it won't release a list of the individual production quotas - though the deal reportedly calls for a 2.5% cut from all members except Iran, Venezuela and Libya.

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Update (8:40 am ET): The latest wave of reports out of Vienna has put the wind back in crude's sails. After two days of heated negotiations, the OPEC+ delegates have finally reached an agreement for a 1.2 million b/d cut (slightly more than 1 million that was expected/priced in) and Iran will be exempt (though the Saudis and Iraqis say there will be no exemptions).

Though many conflicting details are still circulating, some reports claim Libya and Venezuela have also been exempted.

WTI tagged $54 then dropped.

Cut

Here's a quick initial summary of the deal terms from BBG:

  • Oil reached its highs for the day on news of an agreement
  • The reduction will be split with 2/3 coming from OPEC members and 1/3 from its OPEC+ allies including Russia
  • Iran, under U.S. sanctions, will be exempt from the cut, a delegate said
  • We have yet to see the final wording of the agreement

OPEC Will use October production levels as the 'baseline' for cuts:

  • *OPEC+ TO USE OCTOBER OIL OUTPUT AS CUT DEAL BASELINE: DELEGATE
  • *OPEC AGREES TO REVIEW PRODUCTION CUTS IN APRIL: DELEGATE
  • *OPEC SOURCE SAYS RUSSIA WILL NEED TO CUT AROUND 230 KBPD UNDER DEAL
  • ZANGANEH: 800K B/D CUT FOR OPEC AND 400K FOR NON-OPEC

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Update (8:00 am ET): Oil prices spiked Friday morning before quickly fading after Reuters reported that Iran has agreed to the OPEC deal for 800,000 b/d of cuts - only for an Iranian delegate to swiftly deny that report, sending crude prices back from whence they came.

OPEC

The Iranian delegate said there's still 'lots of haggling' about a possible deal.

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Update (7:10 am ET): As furious negotiations continue on day two of the OPEC+ talks in Vienna, one OPEC delegate has informed BBG that the group has yet to finalize the final number for the cuts.

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Update (6:30 am ET): Boom...

  • OPEC TALKS IN VIENNA ARE DEADLOCKED: DELEGATE

Reports of the deadline followed headlines claiming that Iran had demanded that an exemption must be included in any agreement about production cuts. A counteroffer for Iran to agree to a "symbolic" cut has reportedly been categorically rejected by the Gulf Producer. WTI has moved back to unch on the day.

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Update (6:20 am ET): Expressing dissatisfaction with the terms of whatever deal has been discussed, Iran is reportedly holding out for language about an exemption for the struggling producer to be included in the agreement following three hours of talks on Friday.

It would be ironic if Iran - which has been blamed, along with Saudi Arabia and Russia, for triggering the collapse in oil prices due to the sanctions 'exemptions' on its oil exports extended by the US - ends up killing the deal, because the only less-desirable outcome for oil markets than a 'baseline' cut scenario would be 'no deal'.

Oil prices are all over the place as the perceived prospects for a deal change with each new headline.

Oil

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Oil traders pushed crude prices 5% lower on Thursday after OPEC+ members failed to reach an agreement on production cuts - and outcome that helped stoke rumors that Russia and Saudi Arabia, the bloc's two most influential members, had struck an agreement to keep production elevated to placate President Trump. But given the intensifying political pressure that threatens to fracture the decades old cartel, leaked reports from Friday's meeting suggest that Russia and Saudi may have accepted that cuts are necessary -  though doubts remain about whether the 1 million b/d figure that has been bandied about would have any enduring impact on prices amid fears that global markets would remain hopelessly oversupplied.

The dominant rumor following Friday morning's meeting suggested that OPEC was leaning toward total cuts of 1 million b/d (or more) with members contributing 650k and non-OPEC members (mostly Russia) contributing 350k. Iran, Venezuela and Libya each demanded an exemption from the cuts, citing economic hardship (yet Saudi Arabia has resisted calls for it to shoulder the bulk of the cuts, and insisted instead that they be evenly spread throughout the bloc, and reports later Friday said OPEC and Russia would seek a "symbolic" commitment to cuts from Iran).

Still, in one sign that the bloc's two most dominant members might not be willing to cooperate, Russia and Saudi Arabia have refused to jawbone the market lower: Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said that while Russia would consider cuts of 100k-150k b/d, this deceleration would need to be short-lived, with production possibly ramping back up after three months because "market conditions may change."

And even if they do relent, analysts have expressed doubts about whether 1 million b/d in cuts would remove enough supply from the market. One analyst with Commerzbank said oil would "likely fall further" if OPEC+ only cut production by 1 million b/d because "this will not be sufficient to rebalance the market." An analyst at Jeffires agreed, saying cuts of 1m b/d oil could lead to a sell-the-news reaction in the short term, particularly if details are "sketchy."

OPEC

According to the Financial Times, influential Saudi energy minister Khalid Al Falih said he was "not confident" of an agreement. Others have said they still believe an agreement for a 1 million b/d cut could still be reached.

Oman, which is not an Opec member but plays an influential role as a go-between among the different factions, cautioned countries against being "macho" late Thursday, arguing that production cuts were in everybody's interest. Alexander Novak, Russia's energy minister had reportedly met with Vladimir Putin following the start of the Vienna meeting to discuss Russia's position on cuts (the Russian leader said last month that he was "fine" with prices at $60 a barrel). Novak and Falih reportedly met Friday, though the details of what was said were unclear.

As production in the Permian Basin relentlessly accelerates, other producers worry that any revenue they gain from cuts will be offset by ceding more market share to their American competitors. And hopes that a rebound in oil prices (due to its connotations for capex spending and, more broadly, economic growth) might rescue the equity market have added another possible repercussion to the dilemma.

Brent crude futures swiftly priced in this uncertainty, falling 3% to trade below $60 a barrel early Friday before chatter about a possible larger-than-expected deal helped push prices back into the green.