Oil Prices Turn Sharply Lower After Saudi Oil Minister Rules Out Deeper Cuts

By Sara SjolinMarketsMarketWatch Pulse

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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