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OPEC. Photo: NurPhoto / Getty Images

A pivotal Monday meeting among oil-producing countries to discuss supply curbs is reportedly being delayed amid tensions between Saudi Arabia and Russia, the leading players in the OPEC+ group.

Why it matters: Travel and economic freezes from COVID-19 are causing an unprecedented drop in oil demand that has caused prices to crater.

The early March collapse of the OPEC+ production-limiting agreement added even more downward pressure.

Driving the news: Reuters and Bloomberg both report that the meeting is instead tentatively scheduled for later next week.

  • The postponement follows sniping over the last day between Russia and Saudi Arabia over which side is to blame for the March rupture in the roughly three-year-old pact.
  • The Saudi foreign minister, in a statement, said Russian claims about the rupture and the Saudi posture toward U.S. shale producers were "fully devoid of truth."

The big picture: The push for new supply cuts is complicated because the Saudis and Russians have signaled they want other nations to join the curbs, including the U.S., the world's largest producer.

  • The U.S. market system does not enable top-down decisions on output. However, the collapse in prices and demand, and related logistical constraints, will begin pushing U.S. production lower.

What they're saying: “We always remained skeptical about this wider deal as U.S. producers cannot be mandated to cut,” oil analyst Amrita Sen of Energy Aspects Ltd. tells Bloomberg.

“If so, Russia doesn’t come to the table. And if everyone doesn’t cut, Saudi Arabia’s long held stance is that they will not cut either," she said.

What we're watching: What happens to oil prices when trading resumes Sunday evening. Prices have surged in recent days on the prospect of a new production-cutting pact.

  • The global benchmark Brent crude rose to roughly $34-per-barrel on Friday, about $10 higher than where it was mid-week.
  • Quick take: A steep decline when markets re-open will signal that traders think prospects for a deal have become more remote.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

56 mins ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.