Saudi Arabia extends 1 MMbbl oil production cut, could be deepened in future

Grant Smith, Bloomberg August 03, 2023

(Bloomberg) – Saudi Arabia extended its unilateral oil production cut by another month and said it could be prolonged further or even deepened.

The leader of OPEC will prolong the cutback of 1 MMbpd — launched last month — into September, according to a statement on state Saudi Press Agency. That will hold output at about 9 MMbpd, the lowest level in several years. Crude futures jumped.

The measure — which comes on top of supply curbs Riyadh was already making with others in the OPEC producers group — is intended to “to reinforce the precautionary efforts made by OPEC countries with the aim of supporting the stability and balance of oil markets.”

Oil prices have recovered recently, reaching a three-month high above $85 a barrel earlier this week in London, as the post-pandemic recovery in fuel demand, combined with output curbs by OPEC countries, begins to tighten world crude markets. 

But with the economic outlook still clouded by lackluster data from China and fears of recession in the U.S., Riyadh is showing no signs of relaxing its grip. Besides, the kingdom may need prices of as much as $100 a barrel to cover government spending, according to Bloomberg Economics. Brent futures surged as much as 1.7% after the Saudi announcement on Thursday.

The decision to extend was in line with the expectations of traders and analysts surveyed by Bloomberg last week. The kingdom’s hawkish approach has drawn criticism from major importing nations, which fear that rising fuel costs may inflict another inflationary spike on consumers and thwart central banks as they try to taper interest-rate increases.

The Saudis introduced the extra million-barrel cut earlier this summer as a unilateral move, with most other members of OPEC already pumping below their assigned targets and unlikely to reduce supplies further.

It since has been joined by Russia, a member of the wider OPEC alliance, which appears to be finally delivering on pledges to lower shipments. Moscow had maintained exports for many months to maximize revenue for its war against Ukraine, but tanker-tracking data show that flows are starting to come down.

The Saudis and Russia will chair an online review of market conditions by key OPEC nations on Friday. The full 23-nation OPEC alliance is due to meet in late November.

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