S&P Global Platts, one of the secondary sources of oi production data that OPEC will use to determine compliance with its November 2016 deal, has released its numbers for January 2017. (Full chart available here). According to these data, every OPEC country required to cut (Libya, Nigeria, and Iran received exemptions) has cut oil production.
Some countries have yet to implement their allocated production cuts fully, but only Iraq is still producing significantly above its allocation. The compliance rate stands at 91%, a seemingly positive sign towards resolving the supply overhang, but market watchers may not see it that way.
The current reduction rate is 1.14 million bpd (compared to eventual planned cuts of 1.2 million bpd). To achieve the current rates, Saudi Arabia, Angola, and Kuwait all cut production in excess of their allocations. This has helped offset slight overproduction from Algeria, Gabon, Qatar, the UAE, and Venezuela and more significant overproduction from Iraq.
Technically, the OPEC deal can be considered a success as long as the production average over the first six months of 2017 comes out to 1.2 million bpd. This means averaging the production rate over the first six months should yield a rate 1.2 million bpd less than prior to the agreement. The real test for OPEC will be whether these cuts are reflected in higher oil prices throughout the six-month period of the deal.
In January, excess production cuts from major oil producers Saudi Arabia and Russia helped keep the price of oil elevated. Hedge funds seem to be betting that conditions promoting higher prices will continue, at least for the next several months. They are perhaps reacting to news that Venezuela failed to secure needed investment for its oil industry and now expects its oil production to drop by another 200,000 bpd.
However, there is no guarantee that these tentative movements toward ending the supply overhang will continue. In fact, there are many signs that oil is actually overpriced right now.
Some factors that could result in a price correction despite the OPEC deal:
As a global commodity, all producers and consumers contribute to the balance of supply and demand. Much of the fundamentals indicate that oil price projections should be lower.
We may be starting to see this correction now. However—and this is a very important caveat—the impression that speculators have can override the fundamentals.
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