An Austrian army member stands next to the logo of the Organization of the Petroleoum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in front of OPEC’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria April 9, 2020.
Leonhard Foeger | Reuters
Oil prices erased gains on Wednesday, with Brent crude futures falling back below $40 a barrel, on doubts an early meeting of some of the world’s most powerful oil producers will go ahead as planned.
OPEC and non-OPEC allies, a group of oil producers sometimes referred to as OPEC+, had been expected to hold their next meeting on Thursday.
However, while OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC leader Russia were thought to have tentatively agreed on a one-month extension to production cuts, S&P Global Platts reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed sources, the date of a meeting to finalize the deal remains uncertain.
OPEC member Algeria, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the group, proposed late last month that the meeting should be brought forward from the original date of June 9-10.
Brent crude futures traded at $38.91 a barrel during Wednesday afternoon deals, down over 1.5%. Earlier in the session, the international benchmark had climbed above the $40-a-barrel mark for the first time since March 6.
Meanwhile, U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures stood at $36.26, almost 1.6% lower. The contract had also climbed to its highest level since early March earlier in the trading day, but it has since erased those gains.
Oil prices have soared in recent weeks, rebounding from the lows of April amid optimism about an economic recovery in China and as other economies seek to gradually relax lockdown measures.
In April, OPEC+ agreed to cut oil production by a record 9.7 million barrels per day (b/d), approximately 10% of global output. The move was designed to prop up prices as the coronavirus pandemic led to an unprecedented collapse in oil demand.
The production cuts began on May 1 and are set to run through to the end of June. Under the current deal, the cuts will then be tapered back to 7.7 million b/d from July through to the end of 2020, and 5.8 million b/d from January 2021 through to April 2022.
What options are on the table?
Analysts at research firm Eurasia Group believe the OPEC+ meeting will “probably” see the energy alliance agree to extend the commitment to reduce oil production by 9.7 million b/d from July to September.
“As usual, Russia is playing hard to get in the run up to the talks but will prove willing to compromise in the end. Crucially, the Russians will be keen to reach a common position with the Saudis to demonstrate that the OPEC+ partnership remains firm,” analysts at Eurasia Group said in a research note.
“As for the Saudis, a short-term extension is an acceptable option given that there will probably be room to revisit cuts based on developments in markets,” they added.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz Bin Salman sign documents during a ceremony following a meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on…