Sharp-suited men in New York, spivs in the City, keyboard warriors in the Australian Outback, the whole global conspiracy of oil market speculators has been rebranded. No longer are they the spawn of the devil, but handmaiden to the achievement of what Opec secretary-general Mohammad Barkindo calls “our common goal of restoring market stability and reviving much needed investment”.
So what’s with Equatorial Guinea applying to join Opec? It’s hard to see commercial logic, or even multilateral scheming. Why pay the membership fee and be tied into current and future production agreements when you can gain kudos from voluntary cuts — as Malabo is now with its 12,000 b/d cut pledge as part of the Opec-Non-Opec collaboration?
When Opec and its non-member allies agreed combined production cuts of some 1.8mn b/d for six months from the beginning of this month to speed market rebalancing, there were going to be two keys to success in pushing prices higher — sentiment and reality.
Front-month Brent up by 4pc at $56.50/bl is Christmas come early for oil producing countries — for those that celebrate it at any rate.
And the seasonal gift is, arguably, undeserved. After all what did the collection of disparate producer countries come up with on 10 December in Vienna?
Are the odds on a pre-planned spontaneous walkout by the Saudi delegation in Vienna narrowing?
Some points to consider.
First, on 25 November an “Opec delegate” told Argus that this week’s meeting of ministers might fail to reach an output restraint deal. In subsequent days that message has been reinforced, with Saudi oil minister Khalid al-Falih telling reporters at the weekend that the market is rebalancing without Opec action and that Riyadh has other options.