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Cloak and dagger: Real OPEC deals are done out of sight, analyst says

Oil markets are once again gyrating on comments from energy ministers belonging to the oil cartel OPEC but one analyst was keen to point out that the real negotiations over oil production are taking place away from the public gaze.

You could never accuse oil markets for being one bitten, twice shy with oil prices swaying numerous times in the past few years on comments from oil ministers about a potential cut to production or deal over freezing output.

This week was no exception as oil prices oscillated following remarks from energy ministers ahead of an informal meeting of the powerful 14-member OPEC next week, at which hopes are again raised that some kind of deal could be made to freeze output levels and redress a global imbalance in supply and demand.

Oil prices were lower on Tuesday after Venezuela (another OPEC member struggling with the low oil price and keen on a group-wide output cut) said that global supplies needed to fall by 10 percent in order to bring production down to consumption levels.

Mohamed Hamel, chairman of OPEC, left, Mohammed Al-Sada, Qatar's minister of energy and industry and president of OPEC, center, and Abdalla El-Badri, acting secretary general of OPEC, look on ahead of the 169th Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meeting in Vienna, Austria, on Thursday, June 2, 2016.
Akos Stiller | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Mohamed Hamel, chairman of OPEC, left, Mohammed Al-Sada, Qatar's minister of energy and industry and president of OPEC, center, and Abdalla El-Badri, acting secretary general of OPEC, look on ahead of the 169th Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meeting in Vienna, Austria, on Thursday, June 2, 2016.

Earlier in the day, oil prices rose after the Algerian energy minister was reported as saying that an "extraordinary OPEC meeting may happen before November" and that the possibility of freezing output would be discussed at the informal meeting of oil producers in Algiers between September 26-28.

Speaking to Algerian state television, according to Reuters, Energy Minister Noureddine Bouterfa also said that an OPEC move to freeze output would help balance oil markets for at least six months.

Christoph Eibl, chief executive of Tiberius Asset Management, told CNBC that such announcements had short-term impacts on oil markets but little meaning for oil prices in the longer-term.

"Whether you make a statement on, say, the intention of Saudi Arabia freezing (production) or such like, how long will it actually change market dynamics? It lasts a couple of weeks- but the reality is things like a blow-up of pipelines in Nigeria or strategic decision-making within Iranian energy ministry will change the oil price longer-term rather than (this kind of) rhetoric."

Eibl noted that the "real game" between OPEC members and non-OPEC producers, such as Russia, took place away from the negotiating table. Indeed, Saudi Arabia and Russia have met several times to discuss their roles in the oil market and even announced what they called a "historic" deal to cooperate to monitor and stabilize oil markets.

Many analysts were skeptical of the deal, however, saying that the announcement wasyet another confidence trick or "ruse" to placate markets and support the oil price.

OPEC had "become something of a toothless tiger," Eibl said. "There is one guy on the whole committee arguing for a freeze and there's the Iranians have a different interest, the Russians have a different interest. So this is just rhetoric."

"The real game is played behind the curtains and (it's to do with) very much what Saudi Arabia's interest is and what Russia's interest is," Eibl added.