EXACTLY two years after Saudi Arabia coaxed its fellow OPEC members into letting market forces set the oil price, it has performed a nifty half-pirouette. On November 30th it led members of the oil producers’ cartel in a pledge to remove 1.2m barrels a day (b/d) from global oil production, if non-OPEC countries such as Russia chip in with a further 600,000 b/d. That would amount to almost 2% of global production, far more than markets expected. It showed that OPEC is not dead yet.
The size of the proposed cut, the first since 2008, caused a surge in Brent oil prices to above $50 a barrel. Some speculators think it may mark the beginning of the end of a two-year glut in the world’s oil markets, during which prices have fallen by half and producers such as Venezuela have come close to collapse. As long as prices continue to recover, Saudi Arabia can probably shrug off the fact that its previous strategy damaged OPEC at least as badly as non-members, and that this week’s deal gave more breathing space to its arch-rival Iran than it would have liked.
The rally’s continuation, however, depends on non-OPEC members such as Russia reliably committing…Continue reading