OPEC reached an agreement today to cut an additional 500,000 barrels a day from production. In reality that action is close to “no action” since OPEC has been informally making those supply reductions for most of the year thanks to voluntary cuts by Saudi Arabia that have offset over-production by some OPEC and OPEC+ countries.
OPEC+, which includes Russia, holds its own meeting tomorrow. The cuts agreed by OPEC today for the first quarter of 2020 will only come into play if all members of OPEC+ implement 100% of their pledged curbs. Countries including Nigeria, Iraq, and Russia have only sporadically, if at all, met their quotas for output cuts.
Oil markets seem to be okay with the results–even with this high degree of uncertainty. U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate gained 0.07% to $58.47 a barrel as of 2 p.m. New York time. International benchmark Brent crude rose 0.62% to $63.39.
It’s not clear to me how much of the very muted reaction was a yawn on OPEC’s move and how much was a result of the general stasis in the financial markets as everyone waits on the results of the U.S.-China trade talks ahead of the December 15 deadline to avoid an additional round of U.S. tariffs on Chinese exports. As of 2 p.m. New York time the Standard & Poor’s 500 was up 0.05% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was ahead 0.02%. The NASDAQ Composite had climbed 0.02% and the Russell 2000 small cap index was higher by 0.01%. The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) had gained 0.46%.
Personally I’m not as blasé as the markets seem to be about the OPEC results. The current agreement to cut production expires in March 2020.That’s the height of the tricky shoulder season in the oil markets that often sees a drop in demand ahead of the transition to the summer driving season in the Northern Hemisphere. That’s likely to leave OPEC and OPEC+ trying to negotiate a new agreement as oil supply creeps above oil demand.