LONDON and KUWAIT (Bloomberg) -- After sparing its prized U.S. market from oil-output cuts, Saudi Arabia plans to "markedly" reduce exports to its political ally in the coming weeks in an effort to reduce swollen and highly visible crude inventories in the world’s biggest consumer.
"Exports to the U.S. will drop measurably," Energy and Industry Minister Khalid Al-Falih told reporters after chairing a meeting between OPEC and other major producers in Vienna on Thursday. Saudi crude shipments to the U.S. will fall below 1 MMbpd next month, said two people briefed on the kingdom’s oil policy, a reduction of more than 15% from the average so far this year.
Al-Falih spoke after the group of 24 nations agreed to extend their production curbs for another nine months until the end of March 2018, a decision that in itself was a tacit admission that their first five months of cuts had failed to make a significant dent in oil stockpiles in developed economies.
By shifting the focus of Saudi export reductions toward the U.S. -- where customs data allow near real-time monitoring of shipments -- and away from less transparent markets in Asia and Europe, Al-Falih was putting his personal credibility on the line. It may be a necessary move, as the slump in oil prices after Thursday’s agreement showed growing skepticism about the effectiveness of the cuts.
"The market has been given clear independent and verifiable metric of how Saudi cuts -- and hopefully broader OPEC -- are working out over the summer,” Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at Energy Aspects Ltd., said in an interview in Vienna.
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Headline crude prices for the week beginning 16 September 2019 – Brent: US$69/b; WTI: US$63/b
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