Last month was crude oil’s worst in a decade, battered by supply concerns and global politics.
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After sinking below $50, the days ahead could bring some relief, according to Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets.
“What we really need to get on the path to $60 is we need to see a substantial cut coming out of OPEC… at the Thursday meeting,” Croft told CNBC’s “Futures Now” on Thursday. “We anticipate that OPEC will pull a significant quantity of barrels, at a minimum a million barrels.”
OPEC, which includes top producer Saudi Arabia, is set to meet in Vienna on Thursday. Along with non-OPEC member Russia, oil producing countries are expected to agree to a supply cut to counteract tumbling oil prices.
“The one cloud over this is really Saudi Arabia and their relationship with President Trump,” added Croft. “President Trump has made the explicit ask to Saudi Arabia to keep the taps open, so at the eleventh hour that they potentially try to force the Saudi crown prince to keep the barrels on the market,” she said. “I think that’s the big concern.”
Last month, Trump tweeted his thanks to Saudi Arabia for lower oil prices, calling crude’s drop a “big tax cut for America.”
The president was criticized for his siding with Saudi Arabia following the kingdom’s suspected involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Croft said that Saudi Arabia will probably act in their “economic self-interest” and agree to a production cut at the OPEC meeting — though they will have to walk a tightrope to avoid offending Trump.
The International Monetary Fund estimates Saudi’s breakeven point at $88 a barrel for Brent oil, which is almost half of current levels.
If OPEC’s smaller producers join Saudi in agreeing to a production cut, crude oil could surge, Croft told CNBC.
“We heard that Russia will probably go along and then there are these countries that have exemptions – Libya, Nigeria, will they participate in a cut?” she asked. “If they do something higher around 1.5 million, I think that’s a catalyst on Friday to start moving higher,” explained Croft.
Some oil producers have been hesitant to cut production and potentially cede their market share.
The U.S. continues to produce at a record pace, with output recently setting an all-time high above 11 million barrels per day.
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