Oil Prices Surge After Saudi King’s Death

Oil Prices Surge After Saudi King’s DeathOil Prices Surge After Saudi King’s Death

Oil erased gains in New York following the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia as his successor said policies won’t change in the world’s largest crude exporter.

As reported by Bloomberg, West Texas Intermediate futures were little changed, having advanced 3.1 percent after the Saudi royal court announced the death in a statement. Brent remained 1.4 percent higher in London.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz, who succeeds Abdullah on the throne, said he would maintain his predecessor’s policies. Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi, who led OPEC’s November decision to defend market share against surging U.S. shale supplies, remains in his post, according to state-run Saudi Press Agency.

“Such news was always going to provoke a short-term recovery and the whole focus of the market is shifting back to this region,” Eugen Weinberg, Frankfurt-based head of commodities research at Commerzbank AG said by phone. “The new king will stick with the same oil policy - it doesn’t make sense to change it.”

Oil has slumped 36 percent since the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ Nov. 27 accord to maintain production at 30 million barrels a day amid a glut caused in part by the fastest US output in three decades. Saudi Arabia’s oil strategy is likely to remain unchanged as King Salman assumes power, Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

WTI for March delivery gained as much as $1.45 to $47.76 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, trading for $46.23 at 1:02 p.m. London time. Total volume was about 35 percent above the 100-day average for the time of day. Prices have lost 4.9 percent this week.

  Nervous Reaction

Brent crude for March settlement advanced as much as $1.28 to $49.80 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange before paring to $49.25 a barrel. The grade has lost 1.9 percent this week. Brent, used to price more than half the world’s oil, traded at a premium of $2.97 to WTI, compared with $1.04 on Jan. 16.

“It was expected the oil market would react nervously to the king’s death,” said Giovanni Staunovo, an analyst at UBS AG in Zurich. “But it’s likely to be a short-term reaction as the majority of market participants don’t expect a change in Saudi policy. Since the bounce, prices have drifted lower again.”

Saudi Arabia’s current oil strategy of maintaining output levels will remain unchanged, said Commerzbank AG, BNP Paribas SA and Bank of America Corp. “There is no tangible evidence to to suggest that Saudi Arabia will veer away from its existing policy of keeping oil output steady in the face of growing U.S. shale oil supply, with a view to crowding out the marginal higher-cost producers within non-OPEC,” Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity markets strategy at BNP in London, said by e-mail.

Naimi, who has driven decision-making at the ministry since 1995 and turns 80 this year, has said he’d like to devote more time to his other job, chairman of the science and technology university named after the late sovereign.

“Any change in the minister now can create a lot of uncertainty in the market, which Saudi Arabia is going to try and avoid,” Amrita Sen, chief analyst at London-based consultants Energy Aspects Ltd. said by phone. “We do think there’s going to be a change, but not straight away.”