SINGAPORE Oil prices were stable on Friday as evidence increased that producers in the Middle East were informing customers of upcoming supply cuts as part of a coordinated effort to drain a global glut.
But since any production cuts will only hit markets early next year and Iraq is still raising sales to Asia, analysts at Goldman Sachs said that the price upside for December was limited.
Brent crude futures were trading at $54.02 per barrel at 0808 GMT, flat from its last settlement.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down 2 cents at $50.88 per barrel.
Oil producers including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Abu Dhabi, who are members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), have notified customers that they would cut supplies from January as part of an effort by OPEC and other producers led by Russia to prop up prices.
“These greater projected cuts and our strong demand growth forecast lead us to forecast a normalization in inventories… by next summer,” Goldman Sachs said on Friday.
Under the deal, production will fall by almost 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in a bid to reduce a fuel supply overhang that has dogged markets since 2014.
As a result, the U.S. bank said it was raising its WTI price forecast to $57.5 per barrel from $55 per barrel previously for the second quarter of 2017.
For Brent, Goldman expects prices between $55 and $60 per barrel after the first half of 2017.
There were, however, some ongoing doubts about the willingness of other OPEC members to comply.
Iraq, the group’s second biggest producer after Saudi Arabia, has signed new deals that will increase its sales to Asian customers like China and India despite its commitment to reduce output by 210,000 bpd.
Still, analysts at U.S. investment bank Jefferies said that the fact that OPEC and non-OPEC producers had come to an agreement would provide oil prices with a floor.
“The decision by a group of 11 non-OPEC producers to join OPEC in production cuts has likely put a floor on Brent oil prices in the low $50s until such time as adherence to the cuts can be assessed,” Jefferies said in a note to clients.
Despite the possible price floor, Goldman said there was also limited room for market upside prior to 2017’s cuts, and that its December WTI price forecast was $50 per barrel.
“There will be little evidence of production cuts until mid to late January which we believe will be the next catalyst for the next large move in prices, which in our view will be higher to $55 per barrel,” Goldman said.
(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Kenneth Maxwell)