Oil prices suddenly turned sharply lower in Thursday trade, pushing West Texas Intermediate crude below the psychologically important $50-a-barrel level for the first time since December. The April contract dropped 79 cents, or 1.6%, to $49.51 a barrel, after trading as high as $50.84 earlier in the day. Brent for May slid 79 cents, or 1.5%, to $52.30 a barrel. Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank, said the sudden sharp move came as traders stopped betting oil prices will go higher. "In essence, traders holding longs are selling into a market where the bid is weak," he said. On Wednesday, both WTI and Brent closed at 2017 lows after U.S. supply data showed inventories have jumped to mark a fresh record. However, earlier on Thursday, oil prices had recovered slightly.
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