Oil group OPEC and its allies delay policy-setting meeting by four days

Environment

Opec logo displayed on a smart phone with Opec seen in the background, in this photo illustration. On 10 September 2023. In Brussels, Belgium. (Photo illustration by Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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Meetings of the influential Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, collectively known as OPEC+, have been rescheduled from Nov. 25-26 to Nov. 30, sending prices down by over $3 per barrel in Thursday intraday trade.

The Ice Brent contract with January delivery was trading at $79.05 per barrel at 13:50 London time, down by $3.40 per barrel. The Nymex WTI contract with January expiry was at $74.40 per barrel, down by $3.37 per barrel.

The OPEC Secretariat, which made the announcement, did not disclose the reason for the postponement.

It was not immediately clear whether the OPEC+ group would be holding a virtual or in-person meeting on Thursday, or whether ministers would still adjourn at the OPEC secretarial headquarters in Vienna.

The new date of the OPEC+ meetings coincides with the first day of the Conference of the Parties climate summit (COP28) in Dubai and represents a key event for both the host United Arab Emirates — the third-largest OPEC producer — and for other Arab energy providers that are tackling the green transition.

Earlier in the day, Bloomberg News issued a report saying the meeting of Sunday could be delayed amid Saudi dissatisfaction over the oil production levels of some countries. A senior OPEC+ delegate, who asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussion, agreed with the premise, with reference to the compliance levels of some alliance member countries with their respective output pledges.

Saudi Arabia is itself enforcing a 1 million barrel-per-day voluntary production decline until the end of this year, alongside contributing to a separate spate of voluntary output cuts from several OPEC+ members that totals 1.66 million barrels per day and will stretch until the end of next year.

The upcoming meeting faced a challenging market environment, defined by depressed oil prices, a slower-than-expected Chinese demand recovery and petropolitics amid conflict in the Middle East.

High interest rates and banking turmoil largely slumped oil prices in the first half of the year, before a sharp boost from several voluntary supply declines announced independently of OPEC+ strategy. Several OPEC+ members pledged to reduce output by a total of 1.66 million barrels per day until the end of 2024, with Saudi Arabia and Russia topping that with additional respective supply drops of 1 million barrels per day and 300,000 barrels per day until the end of this year.

Prices briefly surpassed $90 per barrel, but have since withdrawn amid a fainter-than-expected recovery in China — the world’s largest crude importer — and resurging tensions in the Middle East.

Prior to the meeting postponement, two OPEC+ delegates, who could only speak under condition of anonymity, faulted the recent price pressures on liquidations in the future markets amid geopolitical risks, with a third attributing market concerns less to supply-demand fundamentals than to global politics, including developments in Israel.

The OPEC+ alliance, including chairman and Saudi energy minister Abdulaziz bin Salman, have been previously frustrated by a perceived disconnect between supply-demand and prices. Famously, the Saudi prince has been at war with market speculators, warning they would “ouch” and should “watch out” in May.

One of the three delegate sources said that the OPEC+ group would have to make an announcement to “support the market” at its upcoming meeting, with a fourth delegate also suggesting cuts could be discussed. The alliance will also discuss baselines —  the level from which quotas are determined and a frequent subject of contention — for certain countries, the last source said.

A fifth delegate meanwhile assessed it is unlikely that the coalition will change its production policy, given uncertainty in the outlook for flows from Iran and Venezuela, where the U.S. has signaled tightening and easing its oil sanctions, respectively.

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