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Oil Jumps as OPEC Makes Cuts; Politics of Deal For Later Reckoning

© Reuters.© Reuters. – Against insurmountable odds, Saudi Arabia got its brethren within OPEC and non-member allies led by Russia to agree to a production cut of 1.2 million barrels per day that the market instantly rewarded on Friday with a 5% price hike.

What wasn’t immediately clear was how Riyadh would deal with the resultant political fallout, if any, with President Donald Trump, who had been haranguing the kingdom for weeks now with tweets demanding that OPEC’s oil be kept flowing without disruption and at low prices to steady the U.S. economy.

Many had expected the Saudis to play ball with the president, who had been protecting Riyadh from the threat of U.S. sanctions after the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whom the CIA believes was killed at the urging of Saudi Crown Price Mohammed bin Salman. Trump hadn’t tweeted or issued any verbal response as yet on Friday to the OPEC decision although he made a live but brief media appearance to announce his new picks for Attorney General and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

“I think he has other things on his mind and will probably tweet again depending on how much oil prices rally between now and the next few days on this production cut,” said John Kilduff, partner at New York energy hedge fund Again Capital.

By 1:40 PM ET (18:40 GMT), U.S. crude was up $1.64, or 3.2%, at $53.13 per barrel after Iraqi Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban announced an 800,000 bpd cut by OPEC and a 400,000 bpd reduction by the group’s allies, over a six-month timeline.

WTI hit a peak of $54.22 earlier despite word that the Saudis secured the deal by granting cut exemptions once again to OPEC’s most economically depressed members Venezuela and Libya, as well as Iran, which is facing U.S. sanctions on its oil exports.

, the global benchmark for crude, rose by $2.21, or 3.7%, to $63.11, after racing to $63.70 earlier.

Despite the rebound, WTI still remained some 30% lower than the four-year highs of nearly $77 per barrel hit in early October. Brent was off about 27% from similar peaks achieved two months back.

Kilduff said he expected U.S. crude to end the year at below $60 per barrel and Brent at under

Analysts said any price rebound will not be straight-lined but dependent on whether the producers in Friday’s deal do as pledged and not cheat by producing more. OPEC also interestingly didn’t make public any country quotas this time for production, although Russia pledged to reduce between 228,000 and 230,000 bpd.

Another major challenge to the market will be how U.S. crude output and exports — which are not party to any OPEC cuts — perform over the next six months.

The United States is already the world’s largest oil driller, with output that is expected to reach 12 million bpd in 2019, well above Saudi and Russia, the second and third largest producers, respectively, with production of just under 11 million barrels. The number of active U.S. rigs drilling for oil fell by 10 to 877 this week, data showed, but analysts said the number could jump again as prices rally.

U.S. crude exports hit a record 3.2 million barrels per day last week, just within two years of coming out from its self-imposed four-decade old oil exports embargo. Weekly U.S. net imports of crude oil and petroleum products were at a minus 211,000 bpd last week —meaning that the U.S. was a net exporter of that amount.