US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo is applying verbal pressure to Saudi Arabia, encouraging the Middle Eastern country who started the oil price war to “rise to the occasion” and reassure the oil markets, the State Department has said, according to the Arab News.
Pompeo spoke to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) before a G20 conference call, urging at least action through words, at a time when oil prices are particularly vulnerable—not just because of the oil price war, but also because of the depressed demand stemming from the coronavirus.
But the words seem laughable, given that the low oil prices are precisely what Saudi Arabia is hoping to achieve.
Saudi Arabia has, for years, been doing the lion’s share of the production cutting that OPEC agreed on to hold up oil prices, at great cost to its own finances. Meanwhile, other OPEC nations such as Iraq, have done precious little to toe the OPEC line, and Saudi Arabia has had to cut more to offset the noncompliant members. Russia, too, has failed to live up to its part of the production cuts.
When the OPEC+ deal fell apart a couple of weeks ago, it was Russia’s reluctance to cut more and for longer—as if they had restricted production to any great extent in the first place, overproducing nearly—if not every—month throughout the deal. Its rationale for refusing to cut and to cut more are not without merit. First, Russia’s oilfields cannot be turned on and off as easily as others, such as US shale. Second, cutting back production to manipulate the prices only works if the world’s largest producer—the United States—were to play along too. And it’s not. Cutting back production further, Russia contends, opens the door for US shale to take even more market share.
The refusal was the last straw for Saudi Arabia, and it responded by playing hardball, threatening to increase its production as of April 1, when the current OPEC production agreement is set to end. Saudi Arabia is likely hoping that the low oil prices will be Russia back to the table. Russia, likewise, is hoping Saudi Arabia won’t have the staying power to hold the line at $20-something oil.
For now, this is precisely the situation Saudi Arabia was hoping for—pain for other oil producers to bring about a change in action. Saudi Arabia, however, probably didn’t expect the prices to drop off quite so quickly, helped by the devastating effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Without some incentive, and there may be one that the United States is offering, MbS has little reason to undo the damage it has intentionally inflicted in the oil markets.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:
Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.
Oil prices climb before OPEC+ talks, Asian shares falter – Aljazeera.com
Oil prices climbed on Thursday, hours before the world’s largest oil producers are scheduled to meet to discuss output cuts as the coronavirus pandemic ravages demand.
Brent crude futures rose 2.5 percent or 81 cents to $33.65 as of 00:34 GMT after touching a high of $33.90, adding to gains in the previous session.
United States crude futures were up 4.3 percent, or $1.08, at $26.17, having climbed as much as 6 percent the day before.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies including Russia, a group known as OPEC+, are set to convene a video conference meeting on Thursday.
The meeting is expected to be more successful than their gathering in March, where they failed to agree to extend supply cuts and triggered a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Hopes of an agreement to cut between 10 million and 15 million barrels per day (bpd) rose after media reports suggested Russia was ready to reduce its output by 1.6 million bpd and Algeria’s energy minister said he expected a “fruitful” meeting.
“I think there’ll be a deal, which will bring a bit of cheer in the short run. Then everyone’s attention will refocus on the fundamentals. The fundamentals are appalling,” Lachlan Shaw, head of commodity research at National Australia Bank told Reuters news agency.
Global demand for oil has shrunk significantly as the coronavirus outbreak triggered travel restrictions and temporary business closures. In India, the world’s third-biggest consumer, oil demand has collapsed as much as 70 percent, according to officials at the country’s refiners.
In contrast to oil prices, Asian shares were mixed on Thursday after a three-day rally, with investors mulling the spread of the coronavirus and when economies will be able to ramp up again.
Shares in Tokyo dipped with the Nikkei declining 0.23 percent in early trade, but were higher in Sydney and Seoul. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was up 1.51 percent and South Korea’s Kospi gained 1.3 percent.
In China, blue chips declined 0.47 percent while the broader Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.19 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was also in the red, down 1.17 percent.
US S&P 500 Index futures edged up after the gauge jumped 3.4 percent on Wednesday as Joe Biden emerged as the Democratic frontrunner in the US presidential race, bringing its rise from the March low to more than 20 percent.
But investors are still looking at numbers of new coronavirus cases and deaths for clues on where the global economy is headed.
“It’s all a question of when the economy reopens and how quickly that happens,” Nancy Davis, a chief investment officer with Quadratic Capital Management LLC told Bloomberg. “We aren’t out of the woods.”
While the White House’s top health advisers are developing medical criteria for safely reopening the US economy in coming weeks should these trends hold steady, the coronavirus killed a record number of victims in the United Kingdom and Belgium, as well as in the hard-hit states of New York and New Jersey. The number of new cases in Italy and Spain crept up after several days of declines.
WestJet to rehire nearly 6,400 workers with help of federal wage subsidy – CBC.ca
WestJet says 6,400 workers will be brought back onto its payroll once the federal government has approved an emergency wage subsidy program.
In a statement Wednesday night, WestJet CEO Ed Sims cautioned that there might not be enough work for the rehired employees, but noted “it does help them make ends meet.
“We will be communicating with those WestJetters who are affected by this decision as soon as we can,” said Sims.
Last month, WestJet announced it was cutting roughly half of its 14,000 employees with the elimination of 6,900 positions.
Canada’s airline industry has seen a dramatic reduction in demand due to lockdowns to control the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The Calgary-based airline’s move to rehire its employees follows a similar move by Air Canada, which announced Wednesday that it would rehire 16,500 laid-off workers with assistance from the same federal wage subsidy program.
The federal government’s emergency wage subsidy — originally targeted only at small- and medium-sized businesses — was expanded earlier in April to cover a 75-per-cent wage subsidy for Canadian companies that had lost 30 per cent of revenue due to the pandemic.
WestJet said it can’t guarantee that all employees will be coming back to work in the short-term, but the new subsidy will help out.
After announcing layoffs in late March, WestJet executives took a 50-per-cent pay cut and vice-presidents and directors took a 25-per-cent cut.
The airline also said it would reduce the number of flights offered in Canada by about half due to a reduced demand for travel.
Oil Prices Surge with Production Cut Anticipation By – Investing.com
By Gina Lee
Investing.com – Oil prices built on the momentum from the previous session as the price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia seems to be nearing a truce.
Russia said overnight that it was willing to reduce output by around 1.6 barrels daily, or 15%. The announcement saw WTI futures surging to almost 12% as the session closed.
International rose 2.62% to $33.7 by 10:19 PM ET (3:19 AM GMT) and U.S. jumped 3.71% to $26.02.
As the oil industry continues to grapple with a supply glut, with the COVID-19 pandemic shrinking demand, Russia’s declaration comes at an opportune time. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) said overnight that the U.S. crude oil inventory increased by 15.2 million barrels for the week ending April 3, against analyst expectations of a 9.37-million-barrel build.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) also estimated a build of 11.9 million barrels yesterday.
Investors are waiting to see if Russia will hold to its word at OPEC+’s virtual meeting later in the day.
“The coming extraordinary producing-countries meeting is the only hope in the horizon for the market that could prevent a total price collapse and production shut-ins,” Rystad Energy’s head of oil markets Bjornar Tonhaugen told CNBC.
“At the moment, prices are so volatile that any news or leaks about the direction of the negotiations could move them [prices] either way. As you have seen in recent days, price swings from gains to losses and back are not unusual in such times,” he added.
But some investors took a more skeptical view.
“OPEC+ is trying mightily to cobble together a sizable production cut, and they are in full spin mode to try and rally prices,” Again Capital’s John Kilduff told CNBC.
“[OPEC’s meeting] will be a make-or-break moment for the oil market. The math on a 10 million barrel per day cutback, which is the minimum necessary to stabilize the situation, is almost impossible to compute. I expect a bad day for OPEC+ tomorrow,” he added.
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