Oil prices surge on OPEC deal to cut output by 1.2m barrels

The price of Brent oil rocketed Friday on reports that OPEC and non-OPEC crude producers had agreed to slash output. (Reuters)
Updated 08 December 2018

Oil prices surge on OPEC deal to cut output by 1.2m barrels

  • Oil prices have plunged 30 percent since October as supply has surged and global demand growth has weakened
  • OPEC is seeking support from non-OPEC Russia for supply cuts

NEW YORK: Oil prices jumped more than 4 percent on Friday as Saudi Arabia and other producers in OPEC, as well as allies like Russia agreed to reduce output to drain global fuel inventories and support the market.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its Russia-led allies, referred to as “OPEC+,” agreed to slash production by a combined 1.2 million barrels per day from 2019, larger than the minimum 1 million bpd that the market had expected, despite pressure from US President Donald Trump to reduce the price of crude.
The producer club will curb output by 800,000 bpd from January while non-OPEC allies contribute an additional 400,000 bpd of cuts, Iraqi Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban said after OPEC concluded two days of talks in Vienna.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak confirmed the combined output cuts of 1.2 million bpd, saying that the market will be oversupplied through the first half of the year.
Brent crude rose $2.94 to $63.00 a barrel by 11:20 a.m. EDT. In early trade, the global benchmark fell below $60 when it looked as if oil exporters might leave production targets unchanged. The benchmark rallied to a session high of $63.73 on news of the agreement.
US crude rose $2.20 to $53.69 a barrel, after earlier reaching a session high of $54.22.
US crude was on track to end the week up 5.2 percent and Brent was 6.9 percent higher on the week so far.
A 1.2 million-bpd cut, if implemented fully, “should be enough to largely attenuate, but not eliminate, expected implied global inventory builds in the first half of next year,” Harry Tchilinguirian, global oil strategist at BNP Paribas in London, told the Reuters Global Oil Forum.
Oil prices have plunged 30 percent since October as supply has surged and global demand growth has weakened.
Prices fell almost 3 percent on Thursday after OPEC ended a meeting in Vienna with only a tentative deal to tackle weak prices. Talks with other producers were held on Friday.
But Iran gave OPEC the green light on Friday to reduce oil output after finding a compromise with rival Saudi Arabia over a possible exemption from the cuts, an OPEC source said.
Oil output from the world’s biggest producers — OPEC, Russia and the US — has increased by 3.3 million bpd since the end of 2017 to 56.38 million bpd, meeting almost 60 percent of global consumption. 
The surge is mainly due to soaring US oil production, which has jumped by 2.5 million bpd since early 2016 to a record 11.7 million bpd, making the US the world’s biggest producer.
The US rig count, an indicator of future output, has risen for five straight months, The latest weekly data is due at 1 p.m. EST.
Given supply that is coming to be online, some analysts and market participants say the cut may not be enough to end oil’s rout.
“Relative to how big this looming supply tsunami, it is not nearly enough to prevent big inventory builds next year,” said Robert McNally, president of Rapidan Energy Group in Washington. “President Trump and President Putin prevented OPEC+ from cutting by more, which was certainly needed to put a sturdy floor under prices. They are putting a fuzzy floor under prices.”
Trump has asked OPEC to keep prices low. Russia had initially balked at cutting production alongside OPEC.


US trade offensive takes out WTO as global arbiter

Updated 10 December 2019

US trade offensive takes out WTO as global arbiter

  • Two years after starting to block appointments, the US will finally paralyze the WTO’s Appellate Body
  • Two of three members of Appellate Body exit and leave it unable to issue rulings

BRUSSELS: US disruption of the global economic order reaches a major milestone on Tuesday as the World Trade Organization (WTO) loses its ability to intervene in trade wars, threatening the future of the Geneva-based body.
Two years after starting to block appointments, the United States will finally paralyze the WTO’s Appellate Body, which acts as the supreme court for international trade, as two of three members exit and leave it unable to issue rulings.
Major trade disputes, including the US conflict with China and metal tariffs imposed by US President Donald Trump, will not be resolved by the global trade arbiter.
Stephen Vaughn, who served as general counsel to the US Trade Representative during Trump’s first two years, said many disputes would be settled in future by negotiations.
Critics say this means a return to a post-war period of inconsistent settlements, problems the WTO’s creation in 1995 was designed to fix.
The EU ambassador to the WTO told counterparts in Geneva on Monday the Appellate Body’s paralysis risked creating a system of economic relations based on power rather than rules.
The crippling of dispute settlement comes as the WTO also struggles in its other major role of opening markets.
The WTO club of 164 has not produced any international accord since abandoning “Doha Round” negotiations in 2015.
Trade-restrictive measures among the G20 group of largest economies are at historic highs, compounded by Trump’s “America First” agenda and the trade war with China.
Phil Hogan, the European Union’s new trade commissioner, said on Friday the WTO was no longer fit for purpose and in dire need of reforms going beyond just fixing the appeals mechanism.
For developed countries, in particular, the WTO’s rules must change to take account of state-controlled enterprises.
In 2017, Japan brought together the United States and the European Union in a joint bid to set new global rules on state subsidies and forced technology transfers.
The US is also pushing to limit the ability of WTO members to grant themselves developing status, which for example gives them longer to implement WTO agreements.
Such “developing countries” include Singapore and Israel, but China is the clear focus.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Reuters last week the United States wanted to end concessions given to then struggling economies that were no longer appropriate.
“We’ve been spoiling countries for a very, very long time, so naturally they’re pushing back as we try to change things,” he said.
The trouble with WTO reform is that changes require consensus to pass. That includes Chinese backing.
Beijing has published its own reform proposals with a string of grievances against US actions. Reform should resolve crucial issues threatening the WTO’s existence, while preserving the interests of developing countries.
Many observers believe the WTO faces a pivotal moment in mid-2020 when its trade ministers gather in a drive to push through a multinational deal — on cutting fishing subsidies.
“It’s not the WTO that will save the fish. It’s the fish that are going to save the WTO,” said one ambassador.