Crude Realities

Oil producers send crude reeling after output deal fails in Doha

Is Saudi Arabia playing a game?
Can oil production freezes be achieved?
What's the impact of the failed Doha meeting?
Saudi Arabia takes a hard line at Doha meeting
Doha meeting fails to agree on production freeze

A summit in Doha among the world's largest oil producing countries ended without an agreement on Sunday, as country leaders failed to strike a deal to freeze output and boost sagging crude prices.

The conference's failure sent crude prices tumbling in early trading on the NYMEX, which fell by more than 6 percent as traders resumed the commodity's sell-off. Stock futures also fell in sympathy, indicating a lower open on Wall Street on Monday.

Initially, the meeting's outcome was thrown into doubt after Iran made a last minute decision not to attend and Saudi Arabia vowed not to halt or freeze production unless other major producers did the same. Amid strains between the regional rivals, nearly 20 of the world's largest oil exporters could not find enough common ground to hold the line on output after marathon talks.

Mohammed Saleh al Sada, Qatar's oil minister, told reporters that the group "needs more time" to construct the outlines of a deal to freeze output. However, he cited "improved fundamentals" as a reason why an immediate agreement wasn't necessary. Earlier in the day, a draft accord proposed to hold output at January levels until at least October.

The dynamic has left the world awash in oil supply that has sent prices reeling. All eyes now turn to June's meeting of OPEC countries, where the cartel's hand may be forced if crude prices begin another downward spiral. The failure of the summit could also lead to a renewed drop in crude prices, which only recently have begun to recover.

John Kilduff, a partner with Again Capital, said the breakdown in Doha was not a surprise. "They were locking in record production so it made no sense," he said of the Doha deal. "It seemed like a farce from the start and it turned out to be exactly that."

Recently, oil prices have crept up from multi-year lows below $30, to levels just above $40 on Friday. Brent crude, however, is far below a mult-year high above $100 set in 2014, and is down nearly 40 percent over the last year. The latest rally, which took crude 55 percent from its lows, was in part fueled by optimism producers would reach a deal to freeze production.

Tehran is strongly resistant to the idea of an output freeze, as it attempts to recoup lost market share after being freed from the yoke of Western sanctions. With the country declining to participate, the meeting's delegates appeared to doubt how effective a freeze could be if it didn't include Iran.

"With Iran, we respect their position and through further consultation, we don't know how their future will unroll," Qatar's oil minister said. "It was a sovereign decision by Iran. A freeze would definitely be more effective if OPEC and non-OPEC" participated he added.

Doha, Qatar.
Iran pulls out, but oil watchers keep hope alive for 'soft' Doha deal

Market observers had hoped that the meeting's participants could strike a 'gentleman's agreement' that would at least save face and serve as a bridge to June's OPEC meeting. However, the collapse of the talks suggest that global crude prices may come under renewed pressure.

However, selling may be limited because of a strike in Kuwait that has taken more than 1.5 million barrels a day off line. Kuwait's workers started an open ended strike this weekend over pay and benefit cuts.

Oil analysts say the failure of Doha deal came down to the refusal of Saudi Arabia and Iran to agree, and it appears that Saudi Arabia Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was the one who made the final call.

The vast majority of OPEC's member states are feeling the pinch of sagging oil, as revenue derived from exports is used for lavish public spending and pacify domestic pressures. However, it is widely suspected that countries such as Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer, are playing a game of economic chicken with U.S. oil producers.

The U.S. shale boom has driven up the world's oil supply and depressed prices. While consumers have received the equivalent of a massive tax cut through cheaper oil and gas prices, the drop in crude has made it uneconomic for many shale companies to continue to churn out oil.

Doha, Qatar.
Justin Solomon | CNBC

Last year, U.S. domestic production surged above 9 million barrels per day, the highest in at least 3 decades. Recently, the Energy Information Agency cut its output forecasts for 2016 to 8.6 million barrels per day.

Meanwhile, countries that were once flush with oil revenues have had to adjust to tougher economic reality. Countries like Venezuela and Nigeria have fallen on hard times, while being forced to contemplate a "post-oil" era of economic diversification.

--CNBC's Patti Domm, Brian Sullivan and Hadley Gamble contributed to this article.