OPEC is closing in on a deal to limit oil output, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said, adding Riyadh would agree to Iran freezing production at pre-sanctions levels. Yesterday, Iran demanded that Saudi Arabia cut production by as much as 1 million bpd, much more than Riyadh was willing to offer. But the tone changed on Wednesday. "I'm optimistic," said Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, adding there had been no request for Iran to cut output. Oil rose 8 percent to almost $50 a barrel, its highest price in a month.
Digits of the day: $29.44
But any impact of OPEC production cuts could be muted by the growing U.S. shale market. In shale fields from Texas to North Dakota, production costs have roughly halved since 2014, when Saudi Arabia signaled an output free-for-all in an attempt to drive higher-cost shale producers out of the market. For example, the breakeven cost per barrel, on average, to produce Bakken shale at the wellhead has fallen to $29.44 in 2016 from $59.03 in 2014.
Around the country
- President-elect Donald Trump is expected to name his campaign finance chairman Steven Mnuchin as his Treasury secretary. Mnuchin used to be a partner at Goldman Sachs and helped bankroll films such as "Avatar," "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "Suicide Squad."
Quotes of the day:
Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He's playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat. – Mitt Romney, March 3, 2016
From what I've seen in these discussions I've had with President-elect Trump, as well as what we've seen from his speech the night of his victory, as well as the people he's selected as part of his transition, all of those things combined give me increasing hope that President-elect Trump is the very man to lead us to a better future. – Mitt Romney, Nov. 29, 2016
- "The worst is over" for two small Tennessee resort towns in the Great Smoky Mountains where wildfires killed three people, destroyed or damaged more than 100 homes, forced thousands to flee and threatened country music star Dolly Parton's theme park, Dollywood, according to local officials. The flames, driven to the outskirts of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge overnight by hurricane-force winds and fed by drought-parched brush, forced 14,000 people to flee.
Around the world
- Outgoing CIA Director John Brennan has said it would be the "height of folly" for Trump to tear up Washington's deal with Tehran. "It could lead to a weapons program inside of Iran that could lead other states in the region to embark on their own programs," Brennan said in an interview with the BBC.
- Who is Miguel Diaz-Canel? The next likely leader of Cuba, following the death of Fidel Castro and the expected retirement of his brother Raul, is an advocate of freedom of press and improving the country's abysmal internet access. And that's a pretty disruptive change in a one-party state that has monopolized the media for nearly 58 years.
Bonus Quote of the Day:
"We are (in Syria) to bring justice. We are there to end the rule of the cruel Assad, who has been spreading state terror." – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
- Erdogan's remarks came as a surprise to Russia, who's been backing the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's civil war that has killed an estimated 400,000 people.
Around Wall Street
- Philip Morris could eventually stop selling cigarettes, its chief executive told the BBC, as part of its press blitz around the introduction of its smokeless cigarette IQOS. "I believe there will come a moment in time where I would say we have sufficient adoption of these alternative products ... to start envisaging, together with governments, a phase-out period for cigarettes," Andre Calantzopoulos said in an interview on BBC Radio 4.
- You can now play Pac-Man and Space Invaders on Facebook Messenger – because old people don't spend enough time on Facebook already.
Today's reason to live: