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OPEC's moment of decision on oil production cuts

Saudi Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman al-Saud
Saudi Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman al-Saud arrives for the 177th OPEC meeting in Vienna, Austria, on Dec. 5. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images

OPEC and Russia are deciding next steps in their three-year effort to restrict production in order to prop up prices, during their two-day meeting currently underway in Vienna.

Why it matters: It will reveal how Saudi Arabia and Russia, the OPEC+ group's dominant players, will continue grappling with soft global demand and the rise of U.S. shale production.

  • On the latter point, the consultancy Rystad Energy is out with a note this morning that sees U.S. shale output continuing to grow a lot over the next three years even if WTI prices hang around in the $54–$57-per-barrel range. (They're $58-ish right now.)

The intrigue: There's genuine drama heading into this session.

  • It's unclear whether they'll deepen the production cuts, or rollover the agreement that curtails production by 1.2 million barrels per day through March.
  • The looming Saudi Aramco IPO is adding a new wrinkle into the meeting amid reporting that the Saudis want an outcome that will juice oil prices
  • Share pricing will be announced any moment now ahead of trading slated to start this month on the kingdom's domestic exchange.
  • Another thing to watch, per Bloomberg, is how the Saudis will pressure other members of the group to actually adhere to their pledges.
  • "Saudi Arabia is offering fellow OPEC+ members a quid pro quo: If you stop cheating, we’ll curb production," Bloomberg reports.

Where it stands: Financial Times energy editor David Sheppard tweets from Vienna this morning that there's "growing chatter among analysts about a potential 'Saudi surprise'" — additional cuts of 800,000 barrels per day or more.

  • But he cautions that delegates are tight-lipped. That said, a Rapidan Energy Group note yesterday similarly sees additional cuts as high as 1 million barrels per day.

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