Goldman Sees Coordinated Oil-Output Cuts as `Highly Unlikely'

  • Sharp economic slowdown, now unforeseen, needed to spark cuts
  • OPEC would undermine market-share defense by limiting output

The world’s biggest oil producers including Russia and Saudi Arabia are set to keep pumping crude into a glutted market and forgo coordinated output cuts as OPEC seeks to shut down higher-cost suppliers, analysts at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said.

Efforts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to cut output now would be counter-productive as its strategy of preserving market share is starting to work, the analysts, among them Damien Courvalin and Jeffrey Currie, wrote in a report dated Sunday.

Benchmark Brent crude has fallen more than 30 percent in the past year as OPEC maintained output amid increased production from non-member states such as Russia and from U.S. shale oil drillers. Eulogio Del Pino, oil minister of OPEC member Venezuela, will meet his Russian counterpart Alexander Novak in Moscow on Monday to discuss ways to boost crude prices. Del Pino will travel afterward to Qatar, Iran and Saudi Arabia, all of them producers in OPEC, which supplies about 40 percent of the world’s oil.

Venezuela Mission

“We continue to view a coordinated production cut as highly unlikely and ultimately self-defeating,” the Goldman analysts said. Shale’s short production cycle and the nascent supply response from non-OPEC producers indicate that the group will keep pumping near current levels to try to force the market to readjust, they said. Goldman doesn’t expect any cuts unless economic growth weakens “sharply,” a scenario the bank’s economists don’t foresee, according to the report.

Brent crude jumped more than 8 percent Thursday after reports that Saudi Arabia and Russia might discuss a shared 5 percent cut in output involving other producers. Russia’s Novak said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Friday that no meeting with the group had been planned and that his country would be willing to make cuts if other exporters agreed to do so. Four OPEC delegates said Thursday that no meeting was planned with Russia and that Saudi Arabia had not proposed any joint reductions.

Venezuela’s Del Pino faces an uphill battle persuading the countries to cooperate in limiting production, analysts Robin Mills of Dubai-based oil consultant Qamar Energy and Edward Bell, a commodities analyst at lender Emirates NBD PJSC, said Sunday.

Iranian ‘Hurdle’

Iran’s goal of boosting production and recovering sales it lost under sanctions further complicates any decision to cut output, Goldman said.

“Iran’s production ramp-up would likely be a significant hurdle to any OPEC action,” according to the note. “Their production recovery target remains aggressive and their desire to regain market share steadfast. A production cut would likely need to accommodate continued growth in Iranian production, an agreement which seems unlikely given recent tensions with Saudi Arabia.”

Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties with Iran last month after a mob stormed the kingdom’s embassy in Tehran to protest the execution of a Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia. The majority of Saudis are Sunni Muslims, while Iran is mainly Shiite.

Russian producers may be disinclined to cut output because they can still make money with prices as low as $30 a barrel, according to Goldman. Brent crude for April settlement was down 76 cents at $35.23 a barrel at 8:31 a.m. in London.

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