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Oil: Towards a new price war

03/09/2020 | 05:39am

A very heavy mood weighs on the oil markets today, the same one that prevailed in 2014 when Saudi Arabia and the United States were head-on battles to gain and maintain market share respectively.

The last OPEC+ summit ended in a stalemate for the participants, who were unable to reach agreement on new regulatory measures to support retail prices. The cartel recommended a further 1.5 million barrels per day cut in production, which would be partly harsh, with a further 1 million barrels per day cut for members of the organisation and 500,000 barrels per day for the Allied countries, a proposal that was rejected outright, to the great surprise of the market, by Russia. This failure undermines the broader alliance, which is nevertheless committed to a permanent cooperation charter. The Saudi Kingdom, which carried this mission of aggressive regulation, has changed its rifle. Farewell to the policy of stability, and in its place, the price war and the quest for new market shares. Saudi Aramco has decided to significantly reduce its sales prices to all destinations and is planning to increase its production by more than 10 million barrels per day. These exceptional measures are intended to put pressure on Russia and bring it back to the negotiating table, while at the same time hitting the American shale oil industry, which has been severely affected by serious solvency problems. This opposition is likely to persist in view of the Russian Finance Ministerâ??s statement that Russia can expect a price of USD 25 per barrel for the next ten years. It is nevertheless a risky gamble, since the entire cartel is affected by this decision, as are the finances of Saudi Arabia at the time of the crisis and part of Saudi Aramco is listed on the stock exchange. Indeed, it should be remembered that this strategy had weakened the OPEC share in 2014, forced to deal with Russia in order to exist. This second supply shock will therefore constitute a major challenge for the oil company, which could see some of its members already in difficulty and not recover. Graphically, in terms of daily data, the downward trend in the number of members is fully expressed. Although a rebound is taking shape in the first few exchanges of the week, the decline is spectacular. The opening cross was down 30%, the biggest drop since 1991 and the Gulf War.
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