The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries delivered a bag full of surprises, just in time for Christmas, at its much-anticipated meeting on Wednesday.
It completed a deal to cut production, while unveiling a number of other developments that contributed to a sharp rally in oil prices.
Prices for oil soared Wednesday, with January West Texas Intermediate crude CLF7, +2.51% rising $4.21, or 9.3%, to settle at $49.44 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange and February Brent crude LCOG7, +2.64% ended at $51.84 a barrel, up $4.52, or 9.6%.
“We considered all aspects and we came to the understanding that the market needs to be rebalanced,” Mohammed Saleh al-Sada, the Qatari energy minister and OPEC president, told reporters at a news conference Wednesday in Vienna. “Rebalance in the market would need courageous decisions from OPEC and with the support of some key countries of non-OPEC.”
Here’s what came out of the meeting:
• OPEC members agreed to cut output.
The 14-member group of major oil producers reached an agreement to reduce their collective output by 1.2 million barrels a day to a ceiling of 32.5 million barrels a day, al-Sada announced.
“We went from a 30% probability of an OPEC agreement to actually striking a deal,” said David Yepez, investment analyst and portfolio manager at Exencial Wealth Advisors.
Analysts will be scrutinizing OPEC oil production numbers in the next couple of months to confirm the plan’s implementation, but for now, “it appears to be a Christmas gift for U.S. oil producers,” he said.
Read: These U.S. oil stocks are soaring after OPEC’s cut—and more gains are on the way
The ceiling was at the low end of the target range of 32.5 million to 33 million barrels a day announced at a September meeting in Algiers.
“This is a much bigger cut than most people thought we’d get and could send the oil price up to between $56-$60 per barrel,” said Bob Minter, investment strategist at Aberdeen Asset Management.
Saudi Arabia, the group’s largest producer, will make the biggest cut at 486,000 barrels.
“Saudi oil revenues should increase even with a steep production cut: they make money and save their oil for future use,” said Anas Alhajji, an independent energy expert and former chief economist at NGP Energy Capital Management.
OPEC’s last production cut was announced in late 2008 and implemented in January 2009.
Tom McNulty, Houston-based director of management consulting firm Navigant Consulting Inc., said that based on the big run up in oil prices Wednesday, the oil market seemed to be a bit surprised by the deal.
“Several of the OPEC nations do not get along at all, and it has been thought that this would make a deal difficult,” he said. “But is it critical to know that oil revenue plays a substantial role in national spending in many of these countries.”
“It is possible that cash flow has trumped geopolitical arguments for now,” said McNulty.
• Non-OPEC members agreed to reduce production in cooperation with OPEC
If OPEC’s cuts weren’t bullish enough for the market, al-Sada also said that key oil producers who aren’t part of OPEC have also agreed to reduce their output by 600,000 barrels a day, with heavyweight Russia accounting for about half of that reduction.
“By including Russia, they are using coordinated action with countries outside the cartel, in an echo of central banks after the financial crisis,” said Minter.
Brian Youngberg, senior energy analyst at Edward Jones, told MarketWatch that Russia had recently hit peak production, “so it’s reduction is just back to levels from a few months ago.” So in the end, “Russia views it [as] not sacrificing much.”
• OPEC will establish a ‘monitoring’ committee to oversee the cuts
OPEC will establish what it referred to as a “high-level monitoring committee” that will be assisted by the OPEC Secretariat, which includes the group’s secretary-general and other staff, to monitor the implementation of the agreement.
“They’ve announced a committee to monitor production so the agreement appears to have teeth,” said Minter.
• Indonesia’s membership in OPEC has been suspended
Indonesia, which had rejoined OPEC as a member less than a year ago after a suspension in 2009, has asked OPEC to suspend its membership. Indonesia expressed difficulty in participating in the deal because it is a net importer of oil, al-Sada said.
Since Indonesia is “a net importer, it really wants lower not higher oil prices and just does not belong in OPEC,” said James Williams, energy economist at WTRG Economics.