Oil prices wavered between gains and losses, as OPEC convenes with other major producers outside the cartel to finalize a plan to extend production cuts beyond March 2018.
Light, sweet crude for January delivery was recently up 21 cents, or 0.4%, to $57.51 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, following three straight days of losses. Prices fell as low as $56.82 earlier in the session. Brent, the global benchmark, was up 61 cents, or 1%, to $63.72 a barrel.
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"Today, the entire energy community is awaiting the outcome of the 173rd OPEC meeting," said Raymond James analysts in a Thursday note.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is pushing to keep a cap on production through the end of 2018, in an extension of a deal made last year to bring crude inventories back to the five-year average level and alleviate a flood of oil supply.
Last year, other producers including Russia were brought into the deal to limit supply by 1.8 million barrels a day from peak October levels. Now Russia threatens to upend the cartels plans at the meeting in Vienna by declining to cut production through the end of next year.
On Thursday, Saudi Arabia's energy minister said more action is required, and OPEC and non-OPEC producers must continue to work together. The Russian energy minister also said the group needs to continue to act into 2018.
"OPEC has managed the markets expectations extremely well and seems to be one by one slamming shut all the doors that would give reason for a move downward [in the oil price]," said Paul Horsnell, the head of commodity research at Standard Chartered.
Analysts believe that oil prices have factored in a nine-month extension to the deal, which would prolong the cuts through the end of next year. Because of those expectations, and net bullish bets by speculative investors recently reaching record highs, any announcement that falls short of declaring a nine-month extension could lead to a selloff, analysts said.
"The worry for many OPEC delegates is that should prices fall meaningfully in the absence of an extension announcement on 30 November, they may stay below $60 until next summer when balances tighten again," Energy Aspects wrote this week.
Oil prices continued to receive some support from bullish U.S. inventory data. On Wednesday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that the amount of crude in storage declined by 3.4 million barrels in the week ended Nov. 24.
Meanwhile, stocks of refined oil products such as gasoline and diesel grew by more than analysts expected, weighing on the market.
On Thursday, gasoline futures rose 0.4% to $1.7369 a gallon, and diesel futures fell 0.1% to $1.9201 a gallon.
Summer Said, Benoit Faucon and Christopher Alessi contributed to this article.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 30, 2017 12:12 ET (17:12 GMT)