OPEC's coordinated effort to curtail global supply has so far managed to put a floor under oil prices, which have been sitting modestly above US$50 since the deal was announced at the end of November last year. But resurging U.S. shale has been capping the upside, and Brent has not breached US$58 per barrel. Analysts and experts are now mostly predicting that oil prices will remain below US$60 this year.
Iran rejected on Tuesday an offer from Saudi Arabia to limit its oil output in exchange for Riyadh cutting supply, dashing market hopes the two major OPEC producers would find a compromise this week to help ease a global glut of crude.
The next OPEC meeting on the 2nd of June will act as little more than a forum for continued altercations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The 2 June 2016 OPEC meeting will be held amid a backdrop of oil prices near $50 per barrel, a sharp drop in Nigerian production due to sabotage, turmoil in Venezuela, Saudi Arabia operating with a new oil minister, and Iran aggressively pumping close to pre-sanction levels.
Venezuelan Oil Minister Eulogio Del Pino will visit Russia, Qatar, Iran and Saudi Arabia on a tour of OPEC and non-OPEC countries intended to drum up support for action to stem the tumble in crude prices.
The monthly report from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said a weaker outlook for China would contribute to slower global oil demand growth next year. U.S. oil production has shown signs of slowing, OPEC said in the report. This could contribute to a reduction in the imbalance of oil market fundamentals, however, it remains to be seen to what extent this can be achieved in the months to come.
Many oil companies had trimmed their budgets heading into 2015 to deal with lower oil prices. But the rebound in April and May to $60 per barrel from the mid-$40s suggested that the severe drop was merely temporary.
The outlook for commodities remains grim for this year, except that oil will fall a bit less than previously forecast, the World Bank said. Average prices for fuels such as crude, natural gas and coal will tumble 39% from 2014, while those for materials like metals and fertilisers will fall about 12%, the Washington-based lender said in its quarterly Commodity Markets Outlook released Wednesday.
Crude oil prices were volatile after ministers from the Opec cartel decided to hold production levels at 30 million barrels per day. Brent crude traded in a narrow range around $62 a barrel, before ending the day up 1.8% at $63.15.
Saudi Arabia continues to ratchet up production, taking market share away from U.S. shale producers. According to OPEC's latest monthly oil report, Saudi Arabia boosted its oil output to 10.31 million barrels per day in April, a slight increase over the previous month's total of 10.29 million barrels.
Even as financial commentators on CNBC are starting to come around to the idea of a bottom in oil prices, the key question for US oil producers remains one of timing. How long will the oil price slump last? Is this a relatively short term event like 2008, or a longer term slump like the one in the mid 1980’s?