Saudi Arabia needs a sharper-than-expected increase in crude prices to balance its budget, according to a report published Wednesday by the International Monetary Fund, as the Kingdom attempts to cure its self-described "addiction" to oil.
OPEC's biggest producer requires oil at $79.70 a barrel to fund government spending and offset slower economic growth, according to the IMF's latest regional outlook report. The Fund had previously forecast a break-even oil price of $66.70 for 2016. Benchmark Brent crude prices have averaged around $43.70 so far this year.
The figures help explain why Saudi Arabia is pushing for an OPEC agreement to cut oil output and boost prices. It could also give pause to investors lining up to buy the country's first-ever international bond sale. Saudi Arabia hopes to raise as much as $17.5 billion in a three-part bond sale that will include five-, 10- and 30-year debt.
Pricing the debut deal will test confidence in Saudi Arabia's fragile economy, which is attempting to reduce its dependence - described earlier this year by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as an "addiction" - to crude oil exports.
The IMF said Saudi Arabia's non-oil economy is likely to grow just 0.3% this year, down from an earlier prediction of 1.6%, after cuts in government spending also curbed private sector spending. Saudi's Overall GDP growth, including oil, is expected to be about 1.2%, its lowest level since 2009. The Kingdom will post a deficit of about 13% of GDP this year, falling to 9.5% next year, according to the IMF.
Saudi Arabia has emerged as the driving force behind a tentative agreement to cut OPEC oil output by at least 100,000 barrels a day to between 32.5 million and 33 million barrels a day. OPEC members are due to ratify that agreement at a meeting at the end of November.
Saudi Arabia has committed itself to the cut despite the absence from the agreement of its regional rival Iran. Iran, which is OPEC's No.3 producer, maintains it should be allowed to increase production to recoup market share lost as a result of sanctions. Earlier this week, it said it planned to increase output by about 200,000 barrels per day in the short term.
Iran's apparent ease with lower oil prices is reflected in its lower break-even oil price, which is likely $55.30 this year, according to the IMF report. Iran benefits from a more diverse economy than Saudi Arabia leaving it less dependent on oil revenues.
Neither the Saudi or Iranian governments are likely to balance their budgets this year as average oil prices are expected to be in the mid-$40 range. West Texas Intermediate traded Wednesday at $51.02, up 1.45%, while Brent crude was at $52.41, up 1.4%.