Crude Steadies After Wednesday's Slide

By Timothy Puko Features Dow Jones Newswires

Oil prices stabilized Thursday after a steep drop in the prior session, with promises of further cuts from the world's exporters countering fears of growing production coming from the U.S.

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Light, sweet crude for May delivery settled down 17 cents, or 0.3%, at $50.27 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It has lost 5.5% over four-straight losing sessions.

The May contract expired at settlement. The more actively traded June contract settled down 14 cents, or 0.3%, to $50.71 a barrel.

Brent crude, the global benchmark, gained 6 cents, or 0.1%, to $52.99 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. It snapped a three-session losing streak.

Most of oil's recent losses came when they fell by almost 4% Wednesday alone, the steepest drop since March 8. The decline was triggered by the surprise build in U.S. gasoline stockpiles that point to weaker-than-expected demand at a time when consumption of gasoline usually rises.

The market did, however, retreat some later and U.S. oil ended lower for the day. There is still more than a month before OPEC meets and may make a deal official, and technical trading also played a role, said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at the Price Futures Group in Chicago.

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"People don't like to step in and buy the day after a selloff, and on expiration day. Expiration days are typically sort of crazy," Mr. Flynn said.

At an energy conference in Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia's energy minister Khalid al-Falih hinted at the extensive behind-the-scenes negotiations among big oil producers ahead of the group's meetings scheduled for May. He said a preliminary agreement to extend the cuts had been reached, but it still needed final signoff from some OPEC members.

"Saudi's done a good job of managing the rhetoric," said Michael Hiley, a trader at LPS Futures LLC. "Every time this market looks like it's in dire trouble, the Saudis and OPEC do a pretty good job of getting supportive comments out."

Slight production reported Wednesday also reinforced widespread anxiety that U.S. shale producers are becoming more capable in churning out oil at a lower price, analysts say. That is still holding prices in check Thursday, said Mark Waggoner, president of brokerage Excel Futures.

"There's higher rig counts, supply seems to be building a little bit," he said. "We're probably going to go down in the short-term."

Latest data from the Energy Information Administration showed U.S. output rose to 9.25 million barrels a day last week, the highest level since August 2015.

Gasoline futures gained 0.7% to $1.6705 a gallon, snapping a six-session losing streak. Diesel futures lost 0.2% to $1.5789 a gallon, its fifth-straight losing session.

--Summer Said,

Sarah McFarlane

and Jenny W. Hsu contributed to this article.

Write to Timothy Puko at tim.puko@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 20, 2017 16:00 ET (20:00 GMT)