Oil prices regained some ground on Thursday after steep losses the previous day, with a slight drop in USA crude inventories stoking hopes that a push to rein in global oversupply could be gathering at least some momentum.
Brent crude futures LCOc1 fell 85 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $54.04 a barrel as of 12:31 p.m. EDT, while USA crude futures CLc1 lost 77 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $51.64 a barrel.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures had risen 31 cents, or 0.61 percent, to $50.75 a barrel.
OPEC members Saudi Arabia and Kuwait signaled that an effort by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers, including Russian Federation, to cut oil output was likely to be extended beyond June.
At a press conference in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said that "there is consensus building but it's not done yet".
James Williams, president of energy consultant WTRG Economics in London, Arkansas, said the minister's bullish statement did not lift prices much because of growing USA shale production.
"You would have thought that that would have reversed yesterday's fall, but it didn't", he said. "We're getting a little bit of price recovery, but it's still not enough to reverse the shale threat".
The EIA (U.S. Energy Information Administration) reported that USA gasoline inventories rose by 1.5 MMbbls (million barrels) to 237.7 MMbbls on April 7-14, 2017.
USA crude futures CLc1 settled down $1.97 to $50.44 a barrel, a 3.8 percent drop, the biggest one-day decline since March 8.
"Rising U.S. production levels are offsetting more than a third of the six-month agreement of the 1.8 million barrel-per-day cut", McGillian said.
"Barring a spike in geopolitical tensions.oil prices will simply not be able to materially rally through resistance in the mid $50s (WTI) until the pace of of USA production moderates", said Tyler Richey, co-editor of the Sevens Report.
The report by the American Petroleum Institute also showed that stockpiles of gasoline actually went up by about 1.37 million barrels.
"Saudi's done a good job of managing the rhetoric", said Michael Hiley, a trader at LPS Futures LLC. "That doesn't really signal a market that's too concerned about geopolitical hotspots".
So-called secondary sanctions on Chinese banks that do business with North Korea could also be in the offing, officials have said. On the other hand, if there is a military clash between the United States and North Korea, Japan could be subject to retaliation.
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