If I Was A Bad (Oil) Guy…

Posted: November 17, 2016 in Business, Oil, OPEC, Royal
Tags: , , , , ,

The great historical fiction writer Leon Uris characterized in The Haj how difficult it was to negotiate with the Middle East… I roughly remember the language he used:  “Do you know how hard it is to negotiate with horse-traders that have been negotiating for 1,500 years?”

That’s not a direct quote… just something I read a long time ago that made an impression on me.

It’s also what I’ve observed when it comes to the Middle East.

Sometimes I wonder — since oil is incredibly sensitive to any comments coming out of Saudi Arabia — and since the Saudis clearly have a cash flow problem these days — whether they’re speculating on the side.

In my experience, almost all professions do it… it’s said that an honest bartender only steals 10% of the evening’s take… and that’s why we have insider trading laws and regulators.

I can only imagine how ineffective any kind of laws and/or regulators are in an area of the world as wild, wild west as the Middle East.

If I was a bad oil guy and wanted to make a chunk of cash speculating in oil in the next few weeks, I would have a “practice” meeting and leak that it was an utter failure.  That would send oil plummeting.  Then, miraculously, at the final meeting, I would triumphantly declare success, grabbing victory straight from the jaws of defeat… and, of course, sending oil soaring.

Even though people would eventually unravel the terms of the deal and find that it was mostly hype over substance…

… as a bad oil guy, short term I would still win on both ends of that horse trade.

Just sayin’.

(Note:  The “practice” meeting is in Doha, Qatar tomorrow… and the final meeting in Vienna, Austria on Nov 30th.  Stayed tuned.)

NOV 30 UPDATE:  Well, the timing was a bit off… they mostly waited to about a week before the meeting… but, yes, oil, which had a dramatic move downward in the last few days, is now soaring this morning on the heels of a (still unconfirmed) deal… so there may be bad oil guys in OPEC after all.  Go figure.

The setup:  Since last Friday, it seemed like a deal was completely and utterly dead.  First, it was announced the Saudis would not attend the preliminary Monday session, which was viewed as being a negative sign that the Saudis were putting their feet in the ground, including horrible “R” word rumors:  That they may be reneging on prior agreements.  

Then came the slew of press releases stating things like, “the Saudis can go pound sand, we’re not cutting!”… and “we think a freeze right now is the same thing as a cut in 2017″… and such.  

Over the weekend the head Saudi oil minister was even quoted as saying, “oil is rebalancing, anyhow, so if there’s not an agreement, everything will still be fine.”

Then came the last 24 hours where things appeared to be so bad, the Saudi oil minister even resorted to “sneaking in a side door” to avoid having to face the press and other countries.  Understand there is a lot of pomp and showing of strength (i.e., “mine’s bigger”) at these meetings so not making a formal entrance was also considered very negative.

Magically, though, an agreement — even bigger than what was expected — emerged this morning.  And now oil is soaring.

Imagine that.

 

 

 

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