Unless you’ve been living under a rock since February 2020, you’ve probably noticed the economic impact worldwide of the novel corona-virus, Covid-19. There has been little to no positive news even as Governors ease restrictions and states/counties move from red to yellow to green phases, until the May 2020 unemployment rates were released days ago. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, May saw an increase of 2.5 million jobs and an unemployment rate of 13.3%, down from April’s 14.7%. This number came as a overwhelmingly positive shock as most experts had predicted it to increase to near 20%, the worst figure since the Great Depression.
OPEC+ came to an agreement earlier this month to institute record-breaking production cuts of nearly 10 million barrels per day. The production cuts were set to take effect on May 1st, but some members have taken it upon themselves to start earlier. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have both made the decision to start scaling back production to work towards the production cut goal. Saudi Arabia has scaled back production from 12 million barrels per day(bpd) over the weekend to reach its goal of 8.5 million bpd. Kuwait is OPEC’s fourth largest producer and they have also made the decision to start the cuts early. Kuwait’s Oil Minister Khaled Al-Fadhel said that starting the cuts early was because they felt a responsibility to address the market conditions.
In an attempt to curtail the downward plunge of global oil prices, Russia is considering supporting cuts among OPEC and its partners. On Thursday, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s top diplomat, confirmed Russia’s support for production cuts following a conversation between President Putin and the King of Saudi Arabia. However, Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Friday that Russia needs a few days analyze the oil market and clarify its position.
With global chatter circling around the latest mass scale respiratory ailment, the coronavirus, there is global glut of petroleum fuels. Like SARS, in 2003, the coronavirus is thought to spread through respiratory droplets being transmitted form one person to another (i.e., sneeze or cough). With the potential for person to person transmission being so high, major travel has been hindered by the fear of either spreading or acquiring the new virus. With more than 17,000 cases already and growing, there is now concerns on how to handle the temporary glut of fuels in the market.
The OPEC meeting that concluded today in Vienna ended with ministers approving productions cuts for the first quarter of 2020. The cuts for OPEC+ will be increased from 1.2 million bpd to 1.7 million bpd. A 500,000 bpd cut should be painless for the organization as they are currently at over-compliance with the cuts as a group. Saudi Arabia has been carrying a large portion of the cuts to compensate for the group’s non-compliant members including Iraq, Russia and Nigeria. The group is now tasked with divvying up the cuts and enforcing the members compliance with the cuts.