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OPEC+ Latest: JMMC Recommends Keeping Oil Output Unchanged

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(Bloomberg) — The OPEC+ alliance is meeting to review oil production levels for 2023 as the global market is roiled by uncertainty over Chinese demand and Russian supply.

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While Saudi Arabia and its partners had considered discussing additional output cuts, the 23-nation group is now widely expected to keep supply levels unchanged as it gauges the impact of a hefty 2 million barrel-a-day reduction announced at its last gathering in October.

The coalition has to contend with an especially volatile outlook, as European Union sanctions are about to come into effect on crude exports from OPEC+ member Russia. At the same time, China is tentatively easing the Covid measures that have eroded consumption in the world’s biggest oil importer.

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A decision to hold the gathering online — rather than at Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ Vienna headquarters as originally planned — has reinforced expectations that the producers will maintain the status quo. Still, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman has a reputation for last-minute surprises.

Key Developments:

  • The EU agrees to set a $60 price cap level for Russian oil

  • The cap level is seen as likely to keep Russian oil flowing

  • Kuwait says oil buyers don’t want to boost imports next year

  • Here’s a look at OPEC+ output last month

(All times are CET)

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JMMC Recommends Keeping Output Steady (12:35 pm)

OPEC+’s Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee recommended that members keep output steady. The full ministerial is scheduled to start a 1 p.m. Vienna time.

OPEC+ Delegates Predict Swift Meeting (12:20 pm)

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The OPEC+ ministerial meeting due to start at 1 p.m. Vienna time will likely be straightforward and quick, according to delegates who declined to be identified.

Most officials are predicting the group will simply ratify existing production targets, with little need for protracted discussions.

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It also looks unlikely that ministers will hold a closing press conference once the meeting is finished, they say. OPEC+ hasn’t been very communicative in recent times: the press conference they held after the meeting in October has been the only one this year.

OPEC Balances Point to Tight First Quarter (12:15 pm)

The market balances OPEC+ ministers will examine at the monitoring committee — which just started — point to a tight first quarter.

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A meeting of Joint Technical Committee — which normally compiles an outlook for ministers — scheduled for last Friday was canceled, but member nations will still have forecasts from another panel, the Economic Commission Board, which convened last week.

These show daily demand for OPEC’s crude will increase by 390,000 barrels in the first three months of 2023, to an average of 29.31 million, as global consumption picks up. This is considerably above current production levels when the latest cutbacks are factored in. A Bloomberg survey points to output of about 28.8 million barrels a day in November. As a result, OPEC+ could keep production steady and look forward to stockpile draws in the first quarter of roughly 500,000 barrels a day, which may boost prices.

It backs up the prevailing view among delegates that the group can simply roll over existing targets at this conference.

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OPEC+ Moving to More Infrequent Meetings (12:10 pm)

One big change we will see from OPEC+ going forward is in the frequency of their gatherings. Gone are the monthly meetings, which, let’s face it, began to seem rather irrelevant when ministers appeared to focus more on how quickly they could conclude proceedings than on discussion of the imbalances of supply and demand.

Full OPEC+ ministerial gatherings will be held every six months going forward, probably in June and December. There was a period between 1999 and 2010 when OPEC’s meetings were held in March and September, coinciding better with the switch between winter and summer demand patterns.

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The Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee will convene every two months, more frequently if its members feel the need, and can request a full ministerial gathering at any time to address market developments.

The monthly meetings held over the past two years were intended to allow OPEC+ to be more responsive to oil supply and demand changes as the world emerged from the depths of the Covid-19 pandemic. For the most part, though, they merely rubber-stamped an output plan that had been adopted in July 2021 and were frequently wrapped up in under 20 minutes.

Decision Comes Day Before Start of EU Ban on Russian Crude and Price Cap (11:20 am)

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OPEC+ is holding its meeting the day before a European Union ban on seaborne crude imports from Russia comes into effect. But don’t expect the group to step in to make up for any crude supply that might be lost as a result of the embargo. Russia remains a key part of the OPEC+ group and the other members won’t take a decision that hurts Moscow’s interests.

If there is any discussion beyond a simple rubber-stamping of the production targets agreed in October, which remain in force until the end of 2023, it is likely to focus on uncertainties around oil demand, with Kuwait warning that it is already seeing reduced requests for next year from some of its customers.

The producers will be far more worried about downside risks to crude prices from weaker demand than they will be about upside risks from any disruption to Russian exports.

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Oil Posts Biggest Weekly Gain in a Month as Volatility Spikes (11:00 am)

Oil posted its biggest weekly gain in a month, after a volatile week marked by China loosening Covid restrictions and speculation on OPEC+ output policy.

Brent closed at $85.57 a barrel on Friday. It’s up 10% this year, but down from $123 in June. Since then, fears over a global economic recession have triggered selling among traders.

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Volatility at the front of the futures curve jumped above 50% earlier this week, the highest since September. Prices have swung as traders try to anticipate OPEC+’s decision and whether China’s tentative easing of Covid-Zero policies will boost demand in the world’s largest importer of crude.

The gyrations have become too much for many traders to stomach. Open interest for WTI stands at the lowest since 2014 and money managers have slashed bullish bets on both benchmarks for three weeks straight. Analysts say the liquidity crisis will continue as positions continue to be closed out before year end.

Shanghai Eases Covid Curbs (8:00 am)

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Shanghai eased some of its Covid restrictions, joining other top-tier Chinese cities as authorities expand a shift toward reopening the economy. Chinese demand is one of the key factors OPEC+ needs to weigh up as it sets policy.

OPEC Committed to Achieving Oil-Price Stability, Says Iraq (Saturday, 5:30 pm)

OPEC is intent on achieving price stability and balancing oil markets, Iraqi Oil Minister Hayyan Abdul Ghani said in a statement.

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The group’s members are committed to current output targets that continue until the end of 2023, Abdul Ghani said after joining an OPEC ministerial meeting on administrative matters.

Kuwait Says Oil Buyers Don’t Want to Boost Imports Next Year (Friday, 9:00 pm)

Kuwait’s state energy company said customers are reluctant to increase oil imports next year, signaling that consumption is being suppressed by global economic weakness.

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“We’re really nervous about where demand is going over the next few months and the next year, especially if there is a recession,” Sheikh Nawaf Al-Sabah, chief executive officer of Kuwait Petroleum Corp., said to Bloomberg TV late on Friday. “We’re talking to our customers. They’re saying that they either require the same amount of oil, or they’re asking for slightly less next year.”

The OPEC member exports about 2 million barrels a day of crude, most of it to Asian countries such as China, South Korea, Japan and India.

–With assistance from Khalid Al-Ansary, Alix Steel, Guy Johnson and Michael Gunn.

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