Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that, after sending the oil markets into a massive crash a month ago by blowing up the OPEC+ exports limitation agreement, his country is now ready to work with OPEC and other countries to implement far deeper cuts to crude production than OPEC+ had ever envisioned.
Speaking in a televised video conference, Putin proposed an arrangement that would result in removing 10 million barrels of crude oil per day from global supply. As reported by the Khaleej Times, “Putin’s dramatic change of tack from his unyielding stance of non-cooperation with the Opec in further output cuts came in the wake of a truce brokered by US President Donald Trump ahead of the upcoming Opec plus meeting scheduled for April 6.” The price for West Texas Intermediate closed at $28.34 per barrel on Friday, up by 40% since Wednesday, when news of Trump’s engagement with Putin and Saudi leader Mohammed bin Salman became public.
Has President Trump, the famous deal-maker, worked a deal that will save the U.S. domestic oil and gas industry? Let’s don’t get ahead of ourselves. While a global deal that would remove 10 millions barrel from daily oil supply would certainly help firm up oil prices, we have to remember that the effort by Russia and Saudi Arabia to flood the market only impacted the supply side of a two-sided equation. Crude prices had already dropped by more than 30% into the low-$40 range in early March before OPEC+ blew up, thanks to massive global demand destruction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the U.S. intentionally shutting down its own economy during March in a strategy to slow the spread of the virus, that demand destruction has only intensified over the past 30 days, with some projecting as much as 25% of world-wide demand for crude oil having been lost, or about 25 million barrels per day. We should also realize that, with so much anticipation now focused on it, if the upcoming emergency meeting of the OPEC+ countries should somehow fail to bear fruit along the lines proposed by Putin, then the price will come crashing back down.
And even if a new deal does get done, it will only address one side of the equation. There will still be much work to be done to return the domestic oil and gas industry to some level of health.