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OPEC “Deal” Ends With Output Confusion, Sets Stage For “Deal Unraveling”

Just 24 hours after OPEC appeared on the edge of splintering, Iran seemed to cave and in a deal that was described as a victory for everyone, OPEC member states and Russia provided a vague assurance they would boost output by striving to return to full compliance of the original production quotas as set in the 2016 Vienna production cut agreement.

As Goldman summarized in its post-mortem, “no further details were provided, including no country level allocation, no guidance for non-OPEC participants or timeline for the increase.” Furthermore, during the press conference following Friday’s deal, the one question which never got an explicit answer is how much output would be boosted by, with little clarity shed beyond “targeting full compliance at the group level”.

This suggests that there is room for countries with spare capacity to increase production above the individual quotas but also that such adjustments could not be resolved.

As a result, Goldman’s energy analyst Damien Courvalin said that he views today’s agreement “as masking disagreements within the group and a potential start to the unraveling of the deal, with core-OPEC and Russia looking to increase production but Iran opposing such an increase.”

Bloomberg’s Javier Blas confirmed as much, noting that Friday’s agreement was a “fudge in the time-honored tradition of OPEC, committing to boost output without saying which countries would increase or by how much” a fudge which gave every member – especially Iran which by endorsing a production boost would have been seen as effectively approving of Trump’s sanctions and allowing other states to take its market share – an “out” to save face, by sufficiently masking up the details so no explicit accusations of backtracking can be made.

Importantly, “it gives Saudi Arabia the flexibility to respond to disruptions at a time when U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela threaten to throw the oil market into turmoil.”

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