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Watch: Market Movers Europe, June 1-5: Supply, demand and generating fuel mixes in flux

In this week's highlights: OPEC+ group gears up for a crucial three-day virtual meeting; steel markets will be looking for signs of production rebounding; and a last hurrah for German coal.

  • Oil production cuts return to the agenda
  • Traders eye prospects of fuel demand rebound
  • Focus on steel production recovery
  • Green pioneer Germany opens new coal power plant
View Full Transcript

In this week's highlights: steel markets will be looking for signs of production rebounding; and a last hurrah for German coal.

But first, pressure is again building on the OPEC-plus group of producer nations led by Russia and Saudi Arabia as they gear up for a crucial three-day virtual meeting.

Though the meeting is scheduled for next week, ministers are now considering kicking off on Thursday, so July nominations can factor in any changes to oil production quotas.

Following an almighty falling-out in March, relations within the OPEC-plus group have improved as production cuts have lifted prices. However, differences remain on the best approach to clearing the oil glut, and much will depend on mutual goodwill.

OPEC-plus is due to reduce its current formal production to 7.7 million from 9.7 million barrels a day at the end of June, but differences are already emerging. Russia is forecasting oil markets will be back in balance by July, while some OPEC countries are much less bullish.

We should get a taste of Russia's views when the country's largest producer, Rosneft, holds its AGM on Tuesday. CEO Igor Sechin is a noted skeptic about collaboration with OPEC. Toward the end of the week, S&P Global Platts will release its monthly survey of OPEC oil production in May, giving an indication of compliance levels so far.

Doing its bit for the cause of market rebalancing, Norway is due to implement its own voluntary production cuts starting Monday, with a 250,000 barrel-a-day cut through June, easing to 134,000 in the second half. This could be tough on some of the country's smaller producing companies, some of which are already complaining of strained finances.

Equal attention is being paid to the demand side of the oil market as Europe emerges from its coronavirus lockdown.

Traders have begun to eye a surge in demand for diesel and jet fuel as Mediterranean countries re-open their borders from July and encourage holiday travel. Nonetheless, stocks have a long way to go before being drawn down as floating and onshore inventories built up at the height of the lockdowns are still high.

Data last week showed driving levels in the continent's largest economies were about 80% of what they were in mid-January before the lockdowns began. But statements from European car manufacturers in recent days show they expect long-term demand to be reduced.

And demand is the subject of our social media question this week: How quickly will European oil demand recover? Tweet us with your thoughts at hashtag #PlattsMM.

And it's not only the oil markets where progress on a return to a more normal supply and demand balance will be monitored. Austrian steelmaker Voestalpine is expected to announce in its earnings press call Wednesday whether it will ramp up production again following restarts in the automotive industry.

The tier-one supplier to the car industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. It halted a blast furnace at its main mill in Linz in mid-March, cutting pig iron production capacity by 20%. Around 20,000 employees have been put on reduced shifts at sites in Austria, with another 6,000 in Germany.

Voestalpine's announcement will be watched closely as an indication of the European steel market's health.

In power, it looks like it's "Back to the Future"! Datteln 4, Germany's last new coal-fired power plant, started operation over the weekend. The plant began generating electricity for a market now changed beyond recognition since 2008, when Chancellor Angela Merkel started construction at the site in northwestern Germany.

The project, delayed to the extent many doubted it would ever see the light of day, may only operate for 15 years as the government continues to debate the final details of a coal-exit law.

Operator Uniper, meanwhile, has just decided to restart two modern gas-fired units at Irsching, mothballed for over four years.

This is more in step with the times. Record low gas prices have boosted margins for combined cycle gas plants, with year-ahead spreads for gas and coal generation now neck and neck. In a similar vein, Berlin is to open a new gas-fired power plant on June 3, with both the city and operator Vattenfall targeting carbon reductions from previous coal and lignite supply.

Finally, with onshore wind struggling to expand, offshore wind has become Germany's go-to technology to achieve climate-change goals, with Merkel set to sign off on a new 40-gigawatt target by 2040 this week.

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