Crude-oil prices turned sharply lower Thursday after a report signaled that a meeting of major oil producers to solidify a global pact to freeze production is "unlikely" to happen. A Reuters report on Thursday said the closely watched meeting set for March 20 is "unlikely to take place" in Russia, citing unnamed sources. The oil-producer confab had been viewed by key officials as a crucial step to getting more producers, including Iran, to agree to production cuts. However, Iran is being cited as a roadblock to a meeting, Reuters reported. West Texas Intermediate crude oil for April delivery trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange was 1.2% lower at $37.86 a barrel, while the international benchmark, May Brent crude was off 2% at $40.27 a barrel. "If this is a breakdown of the agreement to freeze production it would be a bid deal for oil markets because the market had priced in production cuts," said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Price Futures Group.
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