For OPEC watchers, every little detail matters.
When the oil producer group holds its half-yearly meetings, what time the ministers arrive in Vienna, how they speak and which hotel they stay in – anything will be analyzed in an attempt to predict its policies.
So it was seen as a sign that new Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih takes OPEC seriously when he turned up in the Austrian capital on Monday, three days before the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ upcoming discussions.
But Falih will have little opportunity to see fellow ministers ahead of Thursday’s meeting. Many of them, including those from Iran and Venezuela, won’t show up in Vienna until midday or even late on Wednesday.
For veteran OPEC watcher Gary Ross, founder of New York-based consultancy PIRA, that signals expectations should be low as far as OPEC policy is concerned.
“These guys are not exactly getting along these days,” Ross said. “OPEC is becoming far less important. We are entering an era when market management will be non-existent”.