Crude oil prices finished with gains of more than 2% as traders are more optimistic that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, will deliver a deal to cut production by Wednesday.
Benchmark Brent crude closed at $48.25, up 2.1%, while West Texas Intermediate crude closed with gains of 2.2%, at $47.08.
Prices jumped Monday morning as Iraq's oil minister Jabbar al-Luaibi said the country would cooperate with the group to reach an agreement that is "acceptable to all," adding that he is "optimistic" the cartel can get a deal done, according to Reuters.
"A deal may very well be likely given the lack of one would signal OPEC's diminished credibility and that several countries and OPEC officials have their reputations on the line," said Herman Wang, OPEC specialist for S&P Global Platts. "Whether the deal is merely face-saving or durable and significant is the key question."
Saudi Arabia shook traders confidence over the weekend when it suggested OPEC didn't need to reduce output to rebalance the oil market as increasing demand over 2017 will serve to drain a supply glut that has weighed on prices.
"We expect demand to recover in 2017, then prices will stabilize, and this will happen without an intervention from OPEC," said Saudi Arabia's energy minister Al-Falih, according to quotes appearing Sunday in Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. "We don't have a single path, which is to cut production at the OPEC meeting, we can also depend on recovery in consumption, especially from the U.S."
Global Head of Commodities and Real Assets for S&P Dow Jones Indices, Jodie Gunzberg, does not see a deal heavily impacting the global fundamentals. "It may be too little too late and may actually lengthen the rebalancing because OPEC would be cutting from all time high output," said Gunzberg. "Even a fully implemented cut would leave OPEC production near historical highs."
OPEC surprised oil markets in September when it announced plans to reduce supply to between 32.5 million and 33 million barrels per day, an about 5% cut to current member nations output. The organization is due to deliver that agreement on Wednesday, but progress toward finalizing each nations quotas has been hampered by resistance from the groups No.2 and No.3 producers, Iraq and Iran, who have argued they should be exempt from the deal.
"As always with OPEC, the details of the deal and how it is implemented will be key," said Wang. "That is because OPEC has no formal authority to enforce compliance. Whether non-OPEC producers choose to participate is even less within OPEC's control," he added
A production cut deal would likely push oil prices past $50 a barrel, while a failure to strike a deal could lead to a slump of as much as $10 per barrel, noted JP Morgan analysts on Monday. The bank puts the likelihood of a deal at about 60%.
WTI futures have fallen 5% since hitting a November high of $48.03 on Tuesday last week after Iraq and Iran hinted that they could be willing to accept production cuts that would ease the burden of output reduction on Saudi Arabia. Oil prices have been unusually volatile since September as traders react to often unscripted comments by OPEC delegates hinting at the waxing and waning prospects for a deal.
Saudi Arabia's insistence that the market is close to rebalancing due to growing demand is backed by analysts at Goldman Sachs, who said Monday that the oil market's tightening supported the likelihood that an OPEC deal will be struck.
"It is for that very reason (visibility over the rebalancing) that a deal on the 30th is more likely than not," Goldman Sachs noted Monday. "With oil having given up much of its OPEC related gains, risk/reward on the commodity once again appears skewed positively."
Separately, on Monday Goldman Sachs upgraded ConocoPhillips (COP) from 'Neutral' to 'Buy', tipping the U.S. oil producers to gain 20% over the next 12 months. The bank cited ConocoPhillips' attractive cash flow, claiming they will support dividend payments and debt repayment. Goldman Sachs raised the group's 12 month share price target to $54, up from $47. ConocoPhillips closed Friday at $45.75.