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Crude Prices Close Lower on Doubts About OPEC+ Crude Production Cuts

Barchart - Mon Dec 4, 2023

January WTI crude oil (CLF24) on Monday closed down -1.03 (-1.39%), and Jan RBOB gasoline (RBF24) closed up +0.0210 (+0.99%).

Crude oil and gasoline prices on Monday settled mixed, with crude falling to a 2-week low.  Monday's rally in the dollar index to a 1-week high was bearish for energy prices.  Crude oil was also under pressure on negative carryover from last Thursday when OPEC+ said it would cut its crude production level by -1.0 million bpd but did not provide details on how the cuts would be implemented.

However, crude prices recovered from their worst levels, and gasoline prices turned positive after Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said Saudi Arabia's crude production curbs could "absolutely" continue past March of next year.

Oil prices have support by concern that attacks on oil tankers in the Middle East may disrupt crude oil supplies.  The U.S. Central Command said there were four attacks by missiles and drones against three separate commercial vessels on Sunday operating in international waters in the Red Sea.  Iranian-backed Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attacks after they issued a threat against ships with ties to Israel last month, calling them "legitimate targets."

Monday's global economic news was weaker than expected and was bearish for crude demand and prices.  U.S. Oct factory orders fell -3.6% m/m, weaker than expectations of -3.0% m/m and the biggest decline in 3-1/2 years.  Also, German Oct exports unexpectedly fell -0.2% m/m, weaker than expectations of +1.1% m/m, and German Oct imports fell -1.2% m/m, weaker than expectations of +0.8 % m/m.

Last Thursday, OPEC+ agreed to cut crude production by -1.0 million bpd through June 2024.  However, crude prices sold off on the news and remained under pressure Friday since no details were provided on how the cuts would be distributed among members nor how Russia's -300,000 bpd export cut would factor into the new totals.  Delegates said the final details of the new accord, including national production levels, would be announced individually by each country rather than in the customary OPEC+ communique.  The market was disappointed that the extra cuts in OPEC crude output will be announced by each individual country, which suggests the cuts may only be voluntary.

Saudi Arabia said last Thursday it would maintain its unilateral crude production cut of 1.0 million bpd through Q1-2024.  The move would maintain Saudi Arabia's crude output at about 9 million bpd, the lowest level in three years.  Russia also said last Thursday that it will deepen its voluntary oil export cuts by 200,000 bpd to 500,000 bpd in Q1 of 2024.  OPEC Nov crude production fell -140,000 bpd to 28.050 million bpd.

The rift between Angola and other OPEC+ members remains and is a bearish factor that signals more infighting among members.  Angola OPEC governor Pedro said last Thursday that his country rejects OPEC's quota and "Angola will produce above the quota determined by OPEC."  Angola is Africa's second-largest crude producer, and OPEC governor Pedro said his country will pump 1.18 million bpd in January, above the 1.11 million quota set out by OPEC.

A decline in crude in floating storage is bullish for prices.  Monday's weekly data from Vortexa showed that the amount of crude oil held worldwide on tankers that have been stationary for at least a week fell -24% w/w to 68.62 million bbl as of Dec 1.

An increase in Russian crude exports is bearish for oil prices.  Tanker-tracking data monitored by Bloomberg shows 3.24 million bpd of crude was shipped from Russian ports in the week to Nov 26, up +370,000 bpd from the prior week and near the highest in four months.

Last Wednesday's EIA report showed that (1) U.S. crude oil inventories as of Nov 24 were +0.2% above the seasonal 5-year average, (2) gasoline inventories were -1.4% below the seasonal 5-year average, and (3) distillate inventories were -10.0% below the 5-year seasonal average.  U.S. crude oil production in the week ending Nov 24 was unchanged at a record high of 13.2 million bpd.

Baker Hughes reported last Friday that active U.S. oil rigs in the week ended Dec 1 rose by +5 rigs to 505 rigs, modestly above the 1-3/4 year low of 494 rigs from Nov 10.  The number of U.S. oil rigs has fallen this year after moving sharply higher during 2021-22 from the 18-year pandemic low of 172 rigs posted in Aug 2020 to a 3-1/2 year high of 627 rigs in December 2022.

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On the date of publication, Rich Asplund did not have (either directly or indirectly) positions in any of the securities mentioned in this article. All information and data in this article is solely for informational purposes. For more information please view the Barchart Disclosure Policy here.