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Cramer: OPEC deal a desperate attempt to control oil prices

The news of a planned OPEC production freeze seemed to Jim Cramer a final act of desperation for petroleum producing countries to manipulate the price of crude above $40.

"Don't get too excited about the action in oil. If you want to profit off it, go to the oil companies that have continued to lower their break even costs … They have been the beneficiaries of anything that keeps oil in the $40s, which this statement might have done," the "Mad Money" host said.

On Wednesday, OPEC agreed to modest production cuts for the first time since 2008. Yet, Cramer only regarded the deal as "alleged" because Saudi Arabia's energy minister Khalid al-Falih specifically exempted Iran, Nigeria and Libya from the November production freeze agreement.





Mohammed Al-Sada, Qatar's minister of energy and industry and president of OPEC
Akos Stiller | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Mohammed Al-Sada, Qatar's minister of energy and industry and president of OPEC

That meant only the Saudis would cut back themselves, or the other three would cause oil prices to crater if they had their new production online.

"Remember, both Libya and Nigeria have a lot of bouncing back to do because they have had their production shut down by rebels," Cramer said.

Cramer broke down the math:

Libya produced 470,000 barrels a day two years ago, and it fell to 292,000 recently. Nigeria went from 1.9 million barrels a day before insurgents cut production to 1.4 million. Iran threatened to increase to 4 million, perhaps in later months, up from 3.6 million a day.

By year end, OPEC would have been producing an additional 1 million barrels a day versus what it was pumping in August. To have this happen without a deal would have crushed the oil market, Cramer said.

Hence, Cramer suspects that the deal is merely talk, and less action.

If Libya, Nigeria and Iran are not part of the agreement, that means Saudi Arabia would have to cut back the 1.2 million barrels needed to reach OPEC's target, and Cramer does not think that is likely.

"I don't think the Saudis will give up all that market share. I do not see the Iraqis cutting back … So, the deal itself seems plainly fanciful on the face of it," Cramer said.

But by just saying it had a deal, OPEC managed to keep the price of crude from plummeting, which was about to happen.

The only thing that could make the production freeze work is higher demand, he added. Until that happens, the oil producers want the price of oil to go higher, and so they will keep up the chatter.

Demand is actually stable to slightly weaker, and the market won't comply without production cuts. No country is actually seriously cutting production.

"That is why I am calling it a desperate action to prevent oil prices from collapsing again. OPEC can't reveal details because there are none," Cramer said.

By November, the market will find out if the production targets were actually hit. Investors may find out that the target was missed, and prices won't be able to sustain themselves without higher demand. Once again, the price of $40 will be in question.

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