Market watchers see few opportunities for oil prices to rally — but plenty of room for them to fall — after a critical meeting of energy ministers later this week.
About two dozen oil exporters, including top producers Saudi Arabia and Russia, meet on Thursday in Vienna to discuss extending a deal to keep 1.8 million barrels a day off the market. The historic agreement has helped to reverse a three-year oil price downturn that wiped out hundreds of thousands of energy jobs and piled financial pressure on both free market American drillers and countries dependent on oil revenue.
The market largely expects the 14-member OPEC cartel and a group of other producers led by Russia to extend the deal, which began in January and expires in March, through the end of 2018.
But just days before meeting, Russia has not committed to the nine-month extension, raising concerns that OPEC could settle for a shorter extension or push off a decision altogether. Either of those scenarios would spark a sell-off, analysts say, but oil prices will probably struggle to grind higher from recent 2½-year highs even if OPEC lives up to expectations.
Here's how analysts expect markets to move under three scenarios.