Saudi Arabia may start cutting oil output ‘much sooner' than it did after the financial crisis in 2008 because it now needs crude prices of at least $85 (Dh312.2) a barrel to pay for spending, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co said.
The kingdom's 2011 budget forecasts revenue of $144 billion and expenditures rising 7.4 per cent to $154 billion, suggesting a $65 a barrel break-even price, Oswald Clint, a London-based analyst at Bernstein, said in a report yesterday. Additional spending of $36 billion announced in February increases the breakeven price by $20 a barrel, assuming the Saudis export 75 per cent of current production, he said.
Oil fell 0.8 per cent at 4.35pm in Singapore to $85.03 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, heading for a third weekly decline on concern that debt crisis in Europe and the US will worsen an economic slowdown. Crude traded last week for as little as $75.71 a barrel, a ten-month low.
"We would feasibly expect to see Saudi exports start to decrease much sooner this time if a bear case was to materialise," Clint said. Saudi Arabia's export levels had bottomed at about six million barrels a day in late December 2008 when oil prices reached $40 a barrel levels from ten million in September 2008, Clint said. He tracks 10,000 crude tankers sailing from Saudi ports over the last six years.
"While Saudi would have decreased supply in early 2011, loss of Libyan volumes in the first quarter and increased Japanese demand post the March earthquake have meant the taps have stayed open, leading to record exports in June," Clint said. Saudi Arabia has now made up 75 per cent of the Libyan loss, he said.
The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries will trim shipments by 0.3 per cent this month as refiners reduce imports during plant maintenance, according to tanker-tracker Oil Movements. Exports will drop to 22.71 million barrels a day to August 27, the England-based researcher said.