"US crude oil production was recorded at a new record high, and the largest in the world by far, moving ahead of Russia and closer to the level Saudi Arabia might be able to reach in another six months," wrote Citigroup energy analyst Eric Lee.
OPEC's Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee will meet this weekend in Abu Dhabi, ahead of next month's broader meeting in Vienna, and production levels are expected to be discussed. Saudi Arabia, de facto leader of OPEC, and Russia had agreed to raise production ahead of U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil, and the joint committee could decide to recommend lowering production.
The committee could make a recommendation that would be acted on at OPEC's December meeting. Reuters quoted sources saying OPEC and its allies could not rule out a return to production cuts next year.
Helima Croft, head of RBC global commodities strategy, said there's been increasing talk that OPEC and Russia are concerned about supply and may want to cut because they front loaded production ahead of U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil, which went into effect Monday.
President Donald Trump had called on Saudi Arabia to use its surplus capacity to add oil to the market ahead of the sanctions. Trump this week said he didn't want the Iran sanctions to drive oil prices higher. "If you're the Saudis and you are concerned, you have to figure out how far you can let this go," Croft said. "They did all of Trump's heavy lifting for him. They rushed in to put all the barrels on the market in anticipation of a U.S. policy."
U.S. production has surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia. Analysts say Russian production is about 11.4 million barrels a day, and Saudi Arabia production is up to abut 10.7 million barrels, after it upped production to compensate for the potential of Iran barrels coming off the market.
Prior to early October, oil prices had been rising as Venezuela supply continued to dwindle and Iranian barrels came off the market. West Texas Intermediate crude futures topped out at $76.90 in early October. Croft estimates there are about 1 million barrels of Iranian oil removed from the market daily.
Croft said the market has been overly negative about supply, and is underestimating the effect of U.S. sanctions because the U.S. granted some buyers of Iranian crude exemptions. For instance, China has a waiver allowing it to temporarily purchase 360,000 barrels of Iranian oil. But China is cutting back its purchases, while analysts had expected China to continue buying Iranian oil and even add to its purchases.
John Kilduff, partner with Again Capital, said he expects OPEC to take some action to stem a possible new supply glut, now that the U.S. election is over.
"Some in OPEC are blaming Russia and Saudi Arabia for a $15 fall in the oil price and are calling on them to cut production by 1 million barrels a day immediately, " said Kilduff. "There's going to be some fireworks at this meeting. The price fall over the last four weeks has been so swift and dramatic that it's definitely getting their attention."