Oil prices are edging slightly lower today as the market waits for a decision by OPEC+ on production policy from August, a crucial call that will draw the price direction for coming months.

Rystad Energy’s daily market comment from our Oil Markets Analyst Louise Dickson:

The market got used to OPEC+ agreeing in shaping policy within a day in recent months but some of the alliance’s members are now itchy to produce more of their oil, as the current high prices mean super profits.

To produce more oil is what OPEC+ wants as well - the proposal yesterday was to boost output by 2 million bpd until the end of the year - albeit in a controlled and cautious way with a conservative 400,000 bpd production increase in August to start.

A production increase of up to 500,000 bpd in August would be an actually bullish development when compared with the demand uptick that the summer is bringing.

OPEC+ is mulling this gradual production increase and is not looking at bringing back too much production too quickly, as there is a big question mark over the demand of the shoulder autumn season.

Potential vaccination delays, new lockdowns in some parts of the world ad novel strain break-outs are causing some unpredictability for the speed of the demand recovery and OPEC+ has taken notice.

Today oil is trading slightly lower for the moment, as traders are waiting to see what the extended OPEC+ meeting will finally bring.

The gains of the previous day were trimmed in the late trading, when the UAE appeared to block the deal, demanding a higher production quota to match the lenience been given to Russia and Iraq.

Negotiations today will be difficult as OPEC+ knows that if the UAE is allowed to produce from a different base, other members may protest.

On the other hand the UAE’s nod is needed to shape a common policy for the rest of the year that everyone will adhere to.

The UAE’s bold move will push negotiations in the coming days, and the group is now more likely to consider a higher output level, perhaps even above the 1 million bpd threshold, if the supply hawks get their way.

However, if the alliance cracks and breaks up, the exact opposite outcome will materialize, and the oil market could plunge into a very similar price crash witnessed when Russia “left” OPEC+ at the March 2020 meeting and triggered a price war.

An increase above half a million bpd could bring some downside potential for prices, especially if paired with similar supply boosts from September, as traders will rightly worry about autumn’s demand developments.

Fairness will be the word today in the OPEC+ meeting and if there are members in the alliance that believe they are sidelined, while others get their way, the meeting could drag late, and a consensus will be tough to make.

OPEC+ may need to bring back more supply quicker than what the market initially thought, as negotiations showed more conservatism is difficult to digest for some members.

If an increase between 500,000 and 1,000,000 bpd in August starts being discussed, prices may take a moderate dip on the prospect.

On the other hand, if OPEC+ members don’t have a deal and current output levels persist from August, oil prices are sure to climb further, creating a very tight market and making oil very expensive in what is a very busy season for gasoline consumption.

It’s a guessing game for now, in what will surely be one of the most tricky days for traders who aim to price their portfolio correctly before a policy is announced.

Caution and optimism are swinging prices from gains to losses and it’s exciting to see what will prevail in the end of this eventful day!