Saudi-Russia Production Accord – The Freeze Before the Thaw?
The accord reached by Saudi Arabia and Russia, along with Qatar and Venezuela, in Doha on February 16th has been widely seen as effectively an agreement to do nothing. The four countries have accepted a freeze in production based on January 2016 levels, but for most of them (with the exception of Saudi Arabia) this effectively means the ability to maintain oil output at or near full capacity. The impact on the oil market balance will be minimal, especially in the short term. Furthermore, significant caveats were included in the Doha agreement, in particular that it would only take effect if other OPEC and non-OPEC countries agree to co-operate. Saudi oil minister Al-Naimi also added that his country would ‘continue to satisfy customer demand’ for oil. Indeed, the reaction of the oil market, which saw prices rise by more than 10% in anticipation of the meeting but then fall back by over half that amount after its conclusion, underlined the ostensibly disappointing outcome. However, despite the minimal impact of the deal on market balances, the reaching of an accord between the largest OPEC and non-OPEC producers does suggest some interesting conclusions for the oil market over the next few months, as subtle shifts in negotiating tactics have started to emerge.