OPEC and allies including Russia are leaning towards delaying next year’s planned increase in oil output to support the market during the second wave of COVID-19 and rising Libyan output, despite a rise in prices, three sources close to OPEC+ said.
OPEC+ was due to raise output by 2 million barrels per day (MMbb/d) in January—about 2% of global consumption—as it moves to ease this year’s record supply cuts. With demand weakening, OPEC+ has been considering delaying the increase.
Russia is likely to agree on a rollover of current output for the first quarter if needed, a source familiar with the issue said, and would prefer to decide later on extending for the second quarter.
“It looks like the extension is needed,” the source said, citing “possible price drops and demand uncertainties” amid the second wave of the virus.
Oil has rallied in the past week, rising to its highest since March near $49 a barrel on hopes that coronavirus vaccines will lead to higher demand.
This hasn’t changed OPEC+ thinking around the extension, delegates said.
“This increase in prices is about sentiment, but we need to extend to have solid market fundamentals to support the prices,” said one. “So far, the best choice is the three-month extension.”
Still, enthusiasm for extended cuts is not universal, delegates and analysts say.
A potential complication is the United Arab Emirates’ wish for a higher OPEC+ quota, Goldman Sachs said this week.
Nigeria also wants a higher quota, and Iraq has talked about being exempt from 2021 reductions.
But Goldman said it did not expect such a push from the UAE to derail the extension, and Iraq has said it will support any unanimous OPEC+ decision.
There are several technical meetings this week to prepare the ground for ministerial gatherings on Monday and Tuesday. All meetings are virtual due to the pandemic.
Christyan Malek, managing director and head of oil & gas research at J.P. Morgan, said he expected OPEC+ to delay the increase by up to six months despite the price rally, with Saudi Arabia possibly offering deeper voluntary cuts until March.
“Inventories are not coming down as quickly as expected. And lockdowns are moving east to west, with more lockdowns expected in the U.S.,” he said.
Malek said the departure of Donald Trump as U.S. President, who was seen by some in OPEC as a friend after he helped bring Russian President Vladimir Putin into the OPEC+ output cut in April, would actually boost the producer alliance.
“Without Trump, OPEC+ is getting stronger rather than weaker,” he said. “Putin is using OPEC+ to get closer to Saudi Arabia, as the departure of Trump creates a bit of a vacuum in U.S.-Saudi relations.”
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