November 29, 2016

CORN, POPPED: In OPEC Poker Game, Iran and Iraq Call Saudi Arabia’s Bluff.

Together, Iran and Iraq pump more than 8 million barrels a day, up from about 6 million barrels a day from late 2014 when OPEC adopted its current pump-at-will oil policy. Saudi Arabia remains the largest producer at more than 10.5 million barrels a day.

“The reality is that only Saudi Arabia and perhaps the U.A.E. and Kuwait are prepared to make any cuts, and those will be modest and short-lived,” said Bob McNally, founder of consultant Rapidan Group in Washington. “At best, Iran and Iraq will sign for production freezes.”

Perhaps with that in mind, Khalid Al-Falih, the Saudi oil minister, tried over the weekend to change the OPEC narrative. Oil prices will stabilize next year, “and this will happen without an intervention from OPEC,” he said in Dhahran, eastern Saudi Arabia, on Sunday, according to the Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.

That may be nothing more than wishful thinking:

“If OPEC does not come up with a credible agreement to cut production on Wednesday oil prices will end the year below $40 a barrel and be chasing down $30 a barrel early next year,” said David Hufton, chief executive officer of brokers PVM Group Ltd. in London.

If oil prices do rise, then American frackers will reap much of the benefit — and cap that increase at $50 or $60. If prices fall or merely stay the same, that’s cheap gas for us and slashed budgets for the OPEC nations.

After decades of the Saudis having us over a barrel, it’s nice to be on the other side of the “heads I win, tails you lose” scenario.

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