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No OPEC+ Oil Shakeup Amid Russia Cap   12/04 10:39

   The Saudi-led OPEC oil cartel and allied producers including Russia did not 
change their targets for shipping oil to the global economy amid uncertainty 
about the impact of new Western sanctions against Russia that could take 
significant amounts of oil off the market.

   FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- The Saudi-led OPEC oil cartel and allied 
producers including Russia did not change their targets for shipping oil to the 
global economy amid uncertainty about the impact of new Western sanctions 
against Russia that could take significant amounts of oil off the market.

   The decision at a meeting of oil ministers Sunday comes a day ahead of the 
planned start of two measures aimed at hitting Russia's oil earnings in 
response to its invasion of Ukraine. Those are: a European Union boycott of 
most Russian oil and a price cap of $60 per barrel on Russian exports imposed 
by the EU and the Group of Seven democracies.

   It is not yet clear how much Russian oil the two sanctions measures could 
take off the global market, which would tighten supply and drive up prices. The 
world's No. 2 oil producer has been able to reroute much, but not all, of its 
former Europe shipments to customers in India, China and Turkey.

   The impact of the price cap is also up in the air because Russia has said it 
could simply halt deliveries to countries that observe the limit. But analysts 
say the country would likely also find ways to evade the cap for some shipments.

   On the other side, oil has been trading at lower prices on fears that 
coronavirus outbreaks and China's strict zero-COVID restrictions would reduce 
demand for fuel in one of the world's major economies. Concerns about 
recessions in the U.S. and Europe also raise the prospect of lower demand for 
gasoline and other fuel made from crude.

   That uncertainty is the reason the OPEC+ alliance gave in October for a 
slashing production by 2 million barrels per day starting in November, a cut 
that remains in effect. Analysts say that took less than the full amount off 
the market because OPEC+ members already can't meet their full production 
quotas.

   An OPEC+ statement Sunday pushed back against criticism of that October 
decision in view of the recent weakness in oil prices, saying the cut had been 
"recognized in retrospect by the market participants to have been the necessary 
and the right course of action towards stabilizing global oil markets."

   The White House, which has pressed for more oil supply to keep gasoline 
costs down for U.S. drivers, at the time called the cut "shortsighted" and said 
the alliance was "aligning with Russia."

   With the global economy slowing, oil prices have been falling since 
summertime highs, with international benchmark Brent closing Friday at $85.42 
per barrel, down from $98 a month ago. That has eased gasoline prices for 
drivers around the world.

   Average gas prices have fallen for U.S. drivers in recent days to $3.41 per 
gallon, according to motoring club federation AAA.

   While U.S., European and other allies seek to punish Russia for the war in 
Ukraine, they also want to prevent a sudden loss of Russian crude that could 
send oil and gasoline prices back up.

   That is why the G-7 price cap allows shipping and insurance companies to 
transport Russian oil to non-Western nations at or below that threshold. Most 
of the globe's tanker fleet is covered by insurers in the G-7 or EU.

   Russia would likely try to evade the cap by organizing its own insurance and 
using the world's shadowy fleet of off-the-books tankers, as Iran and Venezuela 
have done, but that would be costly and cumbersome, analysts say.

   The cap of $60 a barrel is near the current price of Russian oil, meaning 
Moscow could continue to sell while rejecting the cap in principle. Oil use 
also declines in the winter, in part because fewer people are driving.

   "If Russia ends up taking off more oil than about a million barrels per day, 
then the world becomes short on oil, and there would need to be an offset 
somewhere, whether that's from OPEC or not," said Jacques Rousseau, managing 
director at Clearview Energy Partners. "That's going to be the key factor -- is 
to figure out how much Russian oil is really leaving the market."

   The OPEC+ statement set its next meeting for June 4 but said the coalition 
could meet at any time to address market developments.

 
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