Oil near $48 with OPEC+ planning weekend talks on output cuts

Brent oil edged higher near $48 with market focus shifting to an OPEC+ ministerial gathering that will take place early next week.

Brent for January delivery edged up 0.6 per cent to US$48.10/bbl at 10:55 a.m. in London. WTI for the same month delivery fell 0.9 per cent from Wednesday to US$45.30/bbl.

Futures, which fluctuated between gains and losses, are up about six per cent this week. Saudi Arabia and Russia have convened informal OPEC+ talks for Saturday, according to a letter. That will precede the formal ministerial meetings scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, where producers will decide whether to postpone a planned output hike.

Algeria, which holds the OPEC presidency, said the group must remain cautious because the organization’s internal data point to the risk of a new oil surplus emerging next year. That’s if the cartel and its allies go ahead with a supply hike.

Most analysts surveyed by Bloomberg are forecasting OPEC+ will postpone the planned increase by three months to March, as the group wrestles with the impact of the coronavirus on consumption.

“Without OPEC+ delaying a tapering of cuts, our fundamental balance flips into oversupply” in the first quarter, said Helge Andre Martinsen, senior oil market analyst at DNB Bank. “Despite the vaccine-driven oil price rally in recent weeks, short-term oil market fundamentals have softened on the back of re-imposed lockdowns in Europe.”

OPEC+’s agreement is expected to be in place throughout 2021 and the group will delay its planned tapering by three months, JPMorgan Chase & Co. analysts including Natasha Kaneva wrote in a report. The bank says inventories will decline by 1.5 million bbls/d on average next year, though demand still won’t reach normal levels until 2022.

In the short-term, there continue to be signs that demand is strong in Asia, with Chinese industrial profits rising at the fastest pace in almost nine years in October. Healthy demand had helped flip the futures curve into a bullish backwardation structure this week, indicating tight supplies.

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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