Trump says he brokered deal with Saudi, Russia for huge oil cuts

DUBAI/MOSCOW (Reuters) - U.S President Donald Trump said on Thursday he had brokered a deal with top oil producers Russia and Saudi Arabia to cut output and arrest an oil price rout amid a global coronavirus pandemic, sending crude prices up by 45%.

Trump said he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and now expected the two nations to cut output by 10 million barrels per day (bpd) - an unprecedented number representing 10% of global supply.

Trump said cuts could amount to as much as 15 million bpd but didn't say whether the United States, the world's largest oil producer, would contribute to reductions, a move which is forbidden by U.S. antitrust legislation.

"Just spoke to my friend MBS (the crown prince) of Saudi Arabia, who spoke with President Putin of Russia and I expect and hope that they will be cutting back approximately 10 Million Barrels, and maybe substantially more which, if it happens, will be great for the oil & gas industry!" Trump wrote on Twitter.

Global oil demand has fallen by a third or 30 million bpd in the last few week as some 3 billion people have been put in a lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The immense decline in demand has sent oil prices to their lowest levels since 2002, close to $20 per barrel, hitting budgets of oil producing nations and dealing a huge blow to the U.S. shale oil industry, which cannot compete at low prices.

The downward pressure has been exacerbated by a battle for market share between Russia and Saudi Arabia, after the two countries failed to reach a deal to curb supply in early March and, as result, pledged to raise production instead.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Thursday that Moscow was no longer planning to raise output and said it was ready to cooperate with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers to stabilise the market.

OPEC's de-facto leader Saudi Arabia called on Thursday for an emergency meeting of OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers, an informal grouping known as OPEC+, saying it aimed to reach a fair agreement to stabilise oil markets.

It was not clear when any such meeting could be held.

"This invitation comes within the framework of the kingdom's constant efforts to support the global economy in this exceptional circumstance, and in appreciation of the U.S. president's request and the U.S. friends' request,” the state news agency SPA reported.

Trump will meet U.S. oil company chiefs later on Thursday but it was not clear if production cuts would be discussed.

Brent oil prices stood 15% higher at $29 per barrel at 1520 GMT, having earlier risen to as high as $36.29. U.S. benchmark WTI crude was 17% higher at $24.4.

Even with Thursday's surge, Brent is still less than half its $66 closing level at the end of 2019.

(Reporting by Rania El Gamal in Dubai and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow; Writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Edmund Blair)

04/02/2020 15:53

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