OPEC Ministers Say Oil Market Moving in Right Direction

  • Market is fixing itself, says United Arab Emirates Minister
  • Oil traders say demand is growing faster than anticipated

This Is Not OPEC 1986

OPEC ministers gathering in Vienna for the group’s biannual meeting said the oil market is moving in the right direction as a supply glut dissipates.

While Saudi Arabia -- the architect of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ current policy -- remained silent, ministers from the United Arab Emirates and Nigeria signaled that the strategy of letting low prices eradicate surplus production is working. Some of the world’s biggest oil traders said accelerating demand is also helping to rebalance the market.

“From the beginning of the year until now, the market has been correcting itself upward,” U.A.E. Oil Minister Suhail Al Mazrouei told reporters in Vienna on Tuesday. “The market will fix itself to a price that is fair to the consumers and to the producers.”

Those comments, echoed by his Nigerian counterpart, suggest renewed optimism among producers after oil prices rose more than 85 percent in New York since touching a 12-year low in February. There were still signs of division in the group, with Venezuelan Energy Minister Eulogio Del Pino saying Wednesday the price recovery had more to do with unexpected supply disruptions than a successful OPEC strategy.

Market Trends

Forecasters including the International Energy Agency and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. say the crude glut is finally dwindling as the Saudi approach of squeezing high-cost suppliers -- opposed by most OPEC members when it was unveiled in late 2014 -- finally pays off. The group is unlikely to change direction this week, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

"I think the market trends are better now” and the sense of urgency that spurred producers to mull an agreement to freeze production in April has dissipated, Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, Nigeria’s minister of state for petroleum resources, told reporters in Vienna. While prices are moving “in the right direction, I think it needs more acceleration of the pace,” he said.

While Venezuela’s Del Pino lamented the failure of the freeze agreement, which Saudi Arabia blocked because Iran wouldn’t participate, he said unplanned disruptions in Canada, Nigeria and Kuwait had effectively capped crude production.

“If you take into account what happened in the last three or four months,” there has been a “de facto” freeze, Del Pino told reporters in Vienna Wednesday. More than 3 million barrels of daily production are out of the market, he said.

Traders’ View

After two and a half years of oversupply, oil traders also see signs supply and demand are getting close to being in balance.

"The rebalancing is happening a bit faster than anticipated because of the disruptions," Marco Dunand, the head of Geneva-based trading house Mercuria Energy Group Ltd., said in an interview. "Demand is also stronger than expected” in countries from India and the U.S., he said.

The IEA forecasts oil demand will increase this year by 1.2 million barrels a day, while Dunand said growth is likely to top 1.5 million, perhaps rising as high as 1.8 million.

Brent and West Texas Intermediate crudes, respectively the international and U.S. oil benchmarks, rose last week above $50 a barrel for the first time in six months. Wall Street banks have lifted their oil price forecasts, with Goldman Sachs now saying oil prices could hover between $50 and $60 a barrel in the second half of the year.

“We have around 360 million barrels of surplus inventories in industrialized countries that need to be diminished before prices head markedly above $50 a barrel,” said David Fyfe, head of research at oil trading house Gunvor Group Ltd in Geneva.

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