Oil prices jump on Saudi and OPEC cuts

Kern River Oil Field, the most dense oilfield in the US. (Shutterstock)
Updated 13 February 2019
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Oil prices jump on Saudi and OPEC cuts

  • Markets are tightening because of voluntary production cuts from Jan. 1, led by OPEC and allies including Russia, aimed at forestalling a global overhang
  • Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter and de facto leader of OPEC, said it would reduce crude production to about 9.8 million bpd in March

LONDON: Oil prices surged on Tuesday, supported by OPEC-led production cuts, which Saudi Arabia said it would surpass by more than half a million barrels per day (bpd), and by US sanctions against Iran and Venezuela.
Brent crude futures were up almost 3 percent while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures also gained by a similar measure. Markets are tightening because of voluntary production cuts from Jan. 1, led by OPEC and allies including Russia, aimed at forestalling a global overhang.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter and de facto leader of OPEC, said it would reduce crude production to about 9.8 million bpd in March, over half a million bpd more than it had originally pledged. Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih announced the move in an interview with the Financial Times published on Tuesday as the Kingdom seeks to drive up oil prices to help fund an economic transformation plan.
However, rising US oil production, fighting near Libya’s main oilfield, sanctions on Venezuela and suspense over whether Washington will grant more waivers to import Iranian oil have left markets unsure about broader supply. OPEC cut its forecast for 2019 world oil demand on Tuesday, citing slowing economies and expectations of faster supply growth from rivals, underlining the challenge it faces in preventing a glut. Also on the radar are hopes expressed by US and Chinese officials that a new round of talks, which began in Beijing on Monday, would bring them closer to easing their months-long trade war.
Beijing and Washington are trying to hammer out a deal before a March 1 deadline, without which US tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to rise to 25 percent from 10 percent. The suspense over the talks continues to affect oil markets.
“Resumption of the US-China trade talks has prompted risk appetite in financial markets, which has also manifested in oil prices gaining strength,” said Abhishek Kumar, senior energy analyst at Interfax Energy in London. “Nevertheless, there needs to be a tangible outcome from the talks for a sustained rally in prices.” But Bank of America warned of a “significant slowing” in global growth, adding that it expects Brent and WTI to average $70 and $59 a barrel respectively in 2019, and $65 and $60 in 2020.


Saudi Arabia’s consumer prices fall in April, fourth month in a row

Updated 30 min 34 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia’s consumer prices fall in April, fourth month in a row

  • Economists still expect deflation in 2019 after prices rose throughout 2018
  • The International Monetary Fund projects GDP growth of 1.9 percent

DUBAI: Saudi Arabian consumer prices fell 1.9 percent year-on-year in April for the fourth month in a row but were unchanged from March, data from the General Authority for Statistics showed.
The annual declines in the consumer price index are partly a consequence of a base effect that raised prices last year after the introduction in January 2018 of a 5% value-added tax (VAT), economists have said.
The annual fall in the CPI index, however, narrowed from March when the index had dropped 2.1 percent. Some economists see the narrowing of deflation as a sign that Saudi Arabia is having some success in boosting its non-oil sector, while global oil prices have remained under pressure in recent years.
“The further easing of deflation in Saudi Arabia in April suggests that stronger activity in the non-oil sector at the start of this year is (finally) feeding through to a pick-up in price pressures,” said Jason Tuvey, senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics in a note.
Economists still expect deflation in 2019 after prices rose throughout 2018 following the introduction of the VAT, which was imposed to boost non-oil revenue in response to a long-term drop in oil prices.
Capital Economics expect Saudi CPI to fall 1.3 percent in 2019, while Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank’s projects the CPI index to decline 0.9 percent this year.
“The big picture remains that the unwinding impact of tax and administered price hikes implemented in early 2018 has revealed the weakness of underlying inflation in the kingdom,” Tuvey said.
After contracting in 2017, the economy grew 2.2 percent last year, but is forecast to grow more modestly this year.
The International Monetary Fund projects GDP growth of 1.9 percent, buoyed by an expansion of the non-oil economy as the government steps up spending. Y
The central bank chief said in February, when asked if he expected deflation this year, that he expected consumer demand and real estate loans would stave it off.
Credit grew in the first quarter by more than 3 percent, its fastest pace in more than two years, fueled by a jump in mortgages and in loans to small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Tuesday’s data showed the sub-index for housing, water, electricity, gas and fuel prices down 7.8 percent from a year earlier. The sub-index had fallen 8.1 percent in March.
Prices for food and drinks, however, rose 1 percent and prices for education rose 1.3 percent.