One thing the 24 respondents agreed on unanimously was that OPEC members will not cut production at their upcoming meeting on Friday.
OPEC surprised the market last year when it dropped its strategy of using production cuts to support oil prices. It is expected to continue with that strategy even though WTI futures are struggling in the low $40s and Brent is hovering near $45 per barrel.
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"I think it will be more of the same. I think the Saudis are going to continue to get pushback from the non-Gulf members who are in a lot of pain," said Michael Wittner, global head of oil market research and head of U.S. commodities research at Societe Generale. "Everyone's in a lot of pain. The Saudis are drawing down their reserves and issuing bonds. So it's not easy for them either, but they're in better shape than the likes of Venezuela, Algeria and Nigeria."
Wittner, in an interview, said he expects the OPEC meeting to be contentious. "From what they're publicly saying, Iran may want some acknowledgment that they're going to return," he said. The sanctions against Iranian oil are expected to be lifted when the final approvals come on its compliance with the nuclear deal reached with the U.S. and five other nations earlier this year.
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Iranian oil is already priced into the market, according to a clear majority of respondents – 74 percent; 22 percent believe it has not been priced in.
However, the respondents were more evenly split on the timing of when Iran could return crude to the market in a significant way. About 39 percent expect it to be during the second quarter of next year, while 30 percent expect it to occur during the third quarter. Nine percent said they expect Iran could even come back as soon as the first quarter, while 8 percent said it could be much later — in the fourth quarter of next year or later. Thirteen percent said they were unsure.
OPEC has said it is will reduce production once higher cost producers cut, and even though the U.S. shale industry has been feeling the pain, it continues to produce at a high level.