Global oil prices spiked higher Monday after Saudi Arabia said it would trim exports by around half a million barrels a day next month in order to address the market's steep October declines while a meeting of OPEC's monitoring committee hinted a extending production cuts into next year.
Saudi Arabia's energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, told reporters in Abu Dhabi Sunday ahead of OPEC's Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee meeting that the Kingdom would reduce exports and production by 500,000 barrels a day, an amount equal to around 0.5% of total global output, amid a "tapering off" in demand. The cuts preceded a statement from the committee that suggested next month's full OPEC meeting, which will include allies such as Russia, could propose a 1 million barrel per day production cut in 2019 in order to address what some members see as a glut in supply following record U.S. production and waivers on the purchase of Iranian crude granted to by the State Department to key global customers.
"The committee reviewed current oil supply and demand fundamentals and noted that 2019 prospects point to higher supply growth than global requirements," it said in a statement Sunday that noted slowing global economic growth could "widen the gap between supply and demand."
Brent crude contracts for January delivery, the global benchmark, were seen as much as $1.5 higher from their Friday close in New York before paring that advance to 83 cents and changing hands at $71.01 per barrel, trimming the decline since the October 4 peak to around 17%.
WTI contracts for December, which are more tightly liked to U.S gas prices, were marked 42 cents higher at $60.61 per barrel but still some 20.5% from the October 4 peak of $76.41, after rising more than $1.15 in overnight trading.
"The (committee) decided against announcing any official cuts, but do appear to be laying the groundwork for an announcement at their semi-annual meeting on the 6 December," wrote ING commodities strategist Warren Patterson. "They made it clear that the global market is set to be in surplus over 2019, suggesting that action will need to be taken. We believe that if OPEC+ decides on cuts once again, it would initially be for the first six months of 2019, given that this is where our balance sheet shows the bulk of the surplus."
U.S. oil prices have fallen sharply since touching a four-year peak in early October as domestic production rates surged ahead of planned sanctions on the sale of Iranian crude, which kicked-in earlier this week.
American producers are now pumping a record 11.6 million barrels per day, according to the Energy Information Administration, and crude stockpiles have risen to the highest levels in seven months. Last week, the closely-watched count of domestic drilling installations from Baker Hughes showed that 12 new rigs were added in the week ending November 2, taking the total count to 886, the highest since March 2015.
The State Department's decision to offer waivers to several countries, including China, the world's biggest energy consumer, allowing them to buy Iranian crude for at least the next six months has also weighed on prices this week, even following data from Beijing that showed October imports rose to a record 9.61 million barrels per day last month.
Global demand is also starting to concern investors who have ridden the recent wave of oil market gains, with a slowdown in China clipping estimates for 2019 imports now that the economy slowed to a growth rate of 6.5% over the third quarter and fresh tariffs on $250 billion worth of China-made goods are set to slow exports to the United States over the coming months.
Last month, the International Energy Agency trimmed its forecast for 2019 demand growth to 1.36 million barrels per day, citing a "weaker economic outlook, trade concerns, higher oil prices" and said big production boosts from OPEC lead Saudi Arabia meant that the global market is "adequately supplied for now."