Saudi purge sends oil price surging

Oil reached levels last seen more than two years ago as Saudi Arabian King Salman’s anti-corruption drive shook the world’s biggest crude exporter just weeks before major producers gather to discuss prolonging historic production caps.

Futures advanced up to 1.2% in New York after the purge eliminated potential rivals to crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and included a member of the royal council overseeing state oil producer Saudi Aramco and one of its directors. However, the arrests of princes, government ministers and billionaires may cast a shadow over the November 30 meeting of Opec.

“The geopolitical supply risk premium is starting to bear its head in the market right now because Opec supply cuts have made it relevant,” Michael Loewen, a commodities strategist at Scotiabank in Toronto, said.

Now that Opec “has capped supply and demand has continued to grow higher over time, we are near balanced and that means supply risk is more important,” he said.

Oil has advanced for four straight weeks in New York on signs that a global glut is shrinking in response to output caps implemented by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and allied producers including Russia.

At the November 30 gathering, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and other major suppliers are expected to make the case for extending the limits beyond their March expiration.

Brent for January settlement climbed 46c to $62.53 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange, and traded at a $6.41 premium to West Texas Intermediate for the same month.

The contract for West Texas Intermediate for December delivery rose 23c to $55.87 a barrel in New York trade after earlier rising to $56.28, the highest intraday price since July 2015.

Security forces arrested 11 princes, four ministers and dozens of former ministers and prominent businessmen, according to Saudi media. “I wouldn’t expect a change of strategy for Saudi Arabia” in terms of production and Opec policy, Rupert Harrison, chief macro strategist at BlackRock International said.

“But clearly the risk is always from disruption, and that’s the uncertainty that hangs over this and is always very hard to call,” said Mr Harrison.

Meanwhile, Nigeria is ready to meet the Niger Delta Avengers and other armed groups in the southern oil-rich region, according to a Reuters report, after the militants ended their truce.


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