Oil prices erased earlier firm gains and turned sharply lower Thursday morning after Saudi Arabia's oil minister Khalid al-Falih ruled out deeper cuts to oil production in any extension to the OPEC output deal. Crude oil prices traded down 0.6% at $51.08, after trading almost 1% higher earlier in the session. Speaking ahead of the closely watched Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries meeting in Vienna, al-Falih said deeper cuts had been suggested, but that they are not necessary at this point. The Saudi official also said a nine-month extension to the current deal is "highly likely". More than 20 OPEC members and non-members in November last year agreed to cut production by a collective 1.8 million barrels a day for six months starting on Jan. 1. A nine-month extension of the deal until the first quarter of 2018 is widely expected, but traders speculated that maybe the cartel would also make deeper cuts to production.
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