Oil cartel members meeting in Europe agreed Thursday to extend petroleum production cuts into 2018, as they seek to regain market power amid a surge of U.S. shale output that has kept fuel prices low.
For consumers, the latest deal may not have an immediate effect. Gas prices in the U.S. have remained fairly steady over the last several weeks, rising only 6.7 cents from a month ago to $2.38 per gallon on Thursday morning, according to GasBuddy.com. Prices typically rise ahead of Memorial Day weekend as Americans hit the road, but the upswing has been muted this year due to plentiful oil supplies.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, as expected, agreed Thursday to extend its current cap on oil production another nine months, now expiring July 1, 2018.
The deal is aimed at bolstering petroleum prices, which have remained relatively flat as U.S. shale oil producers turned on the spigot to make up for reduced OPEC output. A group of non-OPEC producers, including Russia, are also expected to maintain their commitment to the production caps.
But traders shrugged at reports of a deal. The price of West Texas Intermediate oil, the U.S. benchmark crude, declined 3.8% to $49.39 at 1:06 p.m. The price of Brent, the global benchmark, fell 3.6% to $52.02.
The commodity had already gained ground in recent days amid signs of a likely deal.
"It’s been a classic case of markets buying the rumors and selling the facts," Oanda senior market analyst Craig Erlam said in a note to investors. "It would appear a nine-month extension with the potential for deeper cuts was almost fully priced in so when the statements were made, there was nowhere left for prices to go but lower."
Khalid A. Al-Falih, Saudi Arabia's oil minister and president of the OPEC Conference, said in his opening statement Thursday that the cuts first agreed to in November were having their intended effect.
"The market is now well on its way toward rebalancing," he said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. "We have more work to do in lowering inventories toward the last five-year average, but we are on the right track."