U.S. oil prices fell nearly 3 percent on Friday in thin trade as analysts anticipated a meeting of major oil exporters would provide a floor for the market, but do little to help to clear global oversupply quickly.
Futures slightly pared losses after oilfield services firm Baker Hughes reported the number of rigs drilling for oil in U.S. fields fell by 3 to a total of 351 in the previous week. At this time last year, U.S. producers were operating 734 oil rigs.
Oil producers led by top exporters Saudi Arabia and Russia will meet in Doha, Qatar on Sunday to discuss freezing output around current levels in an effort to contain a glut exacerbated by production that exceeds demand by about 1.5 million barrels a day.
It would be the first joint action by major OPEC and non-OPEC producers in 15 years, although Iran has refused to participate, saying that it wants to rebuild its output to levels achieved before imposition of the recently lifted economic sanctions.
"Unless there's a total surprise, the likelihood is that the Doha meeting on Sunday between OPEC/non OPEC will produce something very wishy washy and will be nothing more than smoke and mirrors," one trader said. "I therefore want to sell crude today."