Oil advances toward $50 after OPEC+ clinches compromise deal

Oil extended gains toward $50 a barrel after OPEC+ reached a compromise deal to gradually taper production cuts.

Futures rose 1.1 per cent in London after closing at the highest level in nine months on Thursday. After five days of talks, the group will start adding 500,000 barrels a day of crude to the market in January, with ministers holding monthly meetings to decide on the next steps. The deal avoided a breakdown of OPEC+ unity after a tense split between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The oil futures curve, meanwhile, is signaling tighter supply as demand in Asia booms and the key North Sea market strengthens. The prompt timespread for global benchmark Brent crude moved further into backwardation, while the nearest December contract is trading at a higher level than the same contract for December 2022.

The OPEC+ deal offers something to those members concerned about the fragility of the market, and also to nations wanting to pump more to take advantage of higher prices. Oil has rallied recently on optimism fuel demand will start to rebound once COVID-19 vaccines are widely distributed. At the same time, the return of consumption in Asia continues to outpace the rest of the world, boosting hopes a glut built up earlier in the year can clear.

 “Asian demand is absolutely roofing right now,” Amrita Sen, co-founder of consultant Energy Aspects Ltd., said in a Bloomberg TV interview. “If this momentum continues, we could actually see the oversupply disappear a lot earlier than what we’re expecting.”

Prices

  • Brent for February settlement climbed 55 cents to $49.26 a barrel as of 10:35 a.m. London time after closing at the highest level since March 5 on Thursday
  • Futures are up 2.1 per cent this week
  • West Texas Intermediate for January delivery added 1.1 per cent to $46.13

With OPEC+ now set to meet monthly to manage further supply additions, the group will likely become increasingly dependent on price-driven signals like timespreads, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysts wrote in a report. The recent rally in the market structure has been driven by financial flows, producer hedging and refinery purchases in Asia, they said.

Analysts broadly welcomed the show of unity from the group. Most said that the modest supply increase will likely keep the market in deficit and Citigroup Inc. revised its price forecasts higher. Still, some think the move to lift output could challenge the group’s ability to keep production reined in.

“We believe that there is a real risk that compliance could break down as the quota-challenged countries seek to maximize profits from a market buoyed by vaccine optimism and free ride on the output adjustments made by others,” RBC analysts including Helima Croft wrote in a report.

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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