Jun 6, 2023 - Energy & Environment

The chill after OPEC's hot weekend

Illustration of an oil barrel as a tropical cocktail with a crazy straw, cocktail umbrella, and pieces of fruit.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The White House and crude traders both had shrug-emoji responses to Saudi Arabia's oil production cut.

🏃🏽‍♀️Catch up fast: A contentious weekend OPEC+ meeting brought Saudi plans to slash output by 1 million barrels per day next month — and possibly longer.

  • In addition, the wider group will extend its 2023 output limits through 2024.

State of play: Oil prices briefly jumped on the news before paring gains. Early this morning, Brent crude prices were trading below Friday's close (as of late morning they're slightly above).

  • Meanwhile the White House — which was furious at cuts last fall — did not criticize the move.
  • "We are focused on prices for American consumers, not barrels, and prices have come down significantly since last year," a White House official told Axios.

What they're saying: Ben Cahill, an oil analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said traders had been anticipating a cut, noting the Saudi oil minister recently warned speculators to "watch out."

  • "The small price bounce on Monday shows the trend that is frustrating the Saudis: Negative sentiment is keeping prices down, even after multiple OPEC+ cuts," he said via email.
  • "They’re fighting speculators and so far they’re not winning."

The intrigue: Barclays analyst Amarpreet Singh wrote in a note that the measured market response stems from "lack of clarity" on what would prompt the Saudis to extend their unilateral reduction beyond July.

Quick take: The White House has reason to avoid inflaming tensions with the Saudis.

  • As Axios' Barak Ravid reports, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is visiting Saudi Arabia this week as the U.S. seeks a Saudi-Israel normalization deal.
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