Oil Price Signals: What Next for OPEC+?

In this presentation, Bassam Fattouh and Andreas Economou analyse the choices facing OPEC+ in light of OECD stocks falling, recent gains in oil prices, alongside concerns that OPEC may be over-tightening the market and with commentators warning that current high oil prices will have a negative impact on oil demand and suggesting that OPEC+ should release withheld barrels back into the market to put a cap on the oil price.

While OPEC+ should always be wary about the potential supply/demand responses in a higher oil price environment and should show willingness to act both on the upside and the downside, we argue that indicators based on stocks should not be its only guide for output policy and that stock movements should be seen merely as symptoms of underlying oil supply and oil demand shocks hitting the market.

The fact that the market, and the media, as well as producers themselves would prefer to rely on ‘simple’, ‘measurable’ and ‘observable’ indicators, and that indicators based on shocks are highly uncertain as well as difficult to measure, does not mean that OPEC+ should not consider alternative and more complex metrics in their decision making.

We consider OPEC+ exit strategy under different scenarios with price outcomes ranging from $80/b year-end to an average price of $50/b. It is perhaps this wide range of price outcomes, which may explain OPEC+ reluctance to exit the deal, especially given the time taken and the difficulties faced in concluding the output cut agreement and what makes it even more difficult for OPEC+ is that their decisions are endogenous and how they decide to act now will, in turn, shape market outcomes adding another layer of uncertainty.

Executive Summary

By: Bassam Fattouh , Andreas Economou