Saudi Arabia Is Evaluating A Break Up Of OPEC

In potentially groundbreaking news - which failed to generate a market response as it hit at the same time as the FOMC statement - Saudi Arabia’s top government-funded think tank is said to be studying the possible effects on oil markets of a breakup of OPEC, a research effort which the WSJ called "remarkable" for a country that has dominated the oil cartel for nearly 60 years.

The OPEC study aims to “assess the short/medium-term consequences of a dissolution of OPEC,” according to an overview reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. It is intended to determine how the global oil market, and Saudi finances, would look “if coordination between oil producing countries disappear,” according to the overview.

The overview describes two scenarios to investigate, if OPEC isn’t in the picture:

  1. All big oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, act competitively—fighting each other for market share;
  2. Saudi Arabia, instead, attempts to leverage its massive oil output alone to help balance global supply and demand in an attempt to keep oil prices steady—similar to the role that members say OPEC plays today.

The timing of the report, which is hardly a arbitrary, coincides with rising pressures on the Saudi government, including from the U.S., where President Trump has accused the cartel of pushing up oil prices, and from investors who distanced themselves from the kingdom after the brutal killing of a U.S.-based Saudi journalist.

Just as remarkably, while the think tank’s president, Adam Sieminski told the WSJ that the study "hadn’t been triggered by Mr. Trump’s statements", a senior adviser familiar with the project said it provided an opportunity to take into account the criticism from Washington.

Depending on the findings, the study could offer a defense of the cartel and the Saudi role in it; alternatively, it could potentially advocate for a repeat of November 2014, when the cartel was effectively dissolved for a period of time.

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