The U.S. State Department laid down the gauntlet as the United States threatened to slap sanctions on countries and companies that don’t cut oil imports from Iran to “zero” by Nov. 4. That’s right, zero, zip, nada you name it. There will be no waivers granted at this point and the United States is going to issue penalties to those that decide to buy Iranian oil.
Crude oil prices had a tough time staying higher as trade war fears and distraction took the market focus off tightening global oil supply. While many are making ominous predictions of what this trade war may do to economic growth, the reality is that if we are overestimating these concerns the oil market is going to be woefully undersupplied.
All is well in OPEC land. OPEC kept it together with a unanimous deal, even though there is still disagreement on what the deal in Vienna means. Post OPEC, we have a rising dollar on China/U.S. trade tensions and a major Canadian oil sands outage that will buoy U.S. prices.
The historic OPEC NON-OPEC production agreement became known as OPEC plus one. Russia became that plus one as they joined OPEC and conspired with them to reduce production and ultimately raise production and reduce supply. As OPEC meets today it is OPEC minus one. Iran seems to be the lone holdout from a production deal that’s on paper.
OPEC speculation and a strong dollar on trade war fears is providing highs and lows on the crude oil market. Oil was rallying on a big 5.9 million barrels draw in inventory, and a record-breaking week for U.S. refiners as they ran a seasonal record 17.7 million barrels a day crude oil last week according to Energy Information Administration data.
It looks like it is going to be a showdown at the OPEC coral as Iran leads the coalition of the not so willing to raise oil production along with Iraq and Venezuela. The coalition of the willing lead by Saudi Arabia and the so-called Plus 1, Non-OPEC Russia seems as committed as ever to raising oil output. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak Is pushing for a 1.5-million-barrel increase in output, which is partly a negotiating tactic and partly a concern that the market might become undersupplied in the third quarter.
The anticipation of a drastic shift in OPEC’s mindset is quite puzzling to most when you consider that the previous theme heading into meetings was how much production output could possibly be cut from the market. This focus has suddenly been replaced with anxiety over how much supply could potentially be added back into the market.