"They can change market sentiment by signaling they're going to be more engaged. They changed the conversation again. It's basically a little smoke and mirrors," said Helima Croft, RBC's head of commodity strategy.
After recovering from the winter's lows, oil plunged briefly back into bear market territory last week, and reports surfaced that the cartel plans to meet on the sidelines of an energy conference in Algeria in late September.
On Monday, OPEC President Mohammed bin Saleh al-Sada, Qatar's energy minister, confirmed that meeting, and oil rose nearly 3 percent. West Texas Intermediate settled lower Tuesday at $42.77 per barrel, ahead of API inventory data and as Russia showed no interest in meeting with OPEC.
Analysts said what might make OPEC members discuss action is another steep drop in prices, which some expect to see in the next two months as U.S. refiners pare back operations for seasonal maintenance.
"OPEC signaled that they're waiting in the wings and they confirmed the floor by changing the conversation," said Croft. "There are a lot of shorts. We exceeded the February short position last week. They can accelerate the short covering rally. They're a catalyst."
Croft said she believes the market has been coming into balance. "Our view is the market is oversold at this point," she said.
In fact, OPEC in announcing the meeting said it sees demand picking up in the third and fourth quarter. In the cartel's release, al-Sada also said the recent decline in oil prices and market volatility is "only temporary."
"These are more of an outcome resulting from weaker refinery margins, inventory overhang — particularly of product stocks, timing of Brexit and its impact on the financial futures markets, including that of crude oil," al-Sada said.
John Kilduff, founding partner of investment management firm Again Capital, said he does not agree the latest dip into the upper $30s means a floor has been set. He add that the timing of the Sept. 26 energy ministers meeting may be closer to when crude does reach a bottom.
"That could be the low point of an oil price decline," said Kilduff. But he says oil could start to move higher later in the fall, once demand picks back up.
"The rebound we're seeing right now is a function of the record short position that got built up in this market," said Kilduff.