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US crude rebounds 1.6%, settling at $50.79, on expectations Russians, Saudis will extend output cuts

  • Saudi Arabia and Russia expect to agree to extend a production cut aimed at draining a globlal glut of crude oil.
  • Libya's Sharara oilfield resumed production after a two-day break.
  • Record U.S. crude oil exports are weighing on the market.

Oil prices rose on Thursday on expectations that Saudi Arabia and Russia would extend production cuts, although record U.S. exports and the return of supply from a Libyan oilfield dragged on the market.

"Bullish comments from the Russian and Saudi Energy ministers are helping arrest the recent decline in oil prices," said Stephen Brennock, analyst at London brokerage PVM Oil Associates.

U.S. light crude finished Thursday's session up 81 cents, or 1.6 percent, at $50.79. Brent crude was up $1.14, or 2 percent, at $56.94 a barrel by 2:26 p.m. ET (1826 GMT).

Both crude benchmarks have fallen more than 5 percent over the last week as investors have booked profits after almost three months of gains.

"I think the market is trying to stabilize," said Gene McGillian, director of market research at Tradition Energy. Potential demand decreases and pressure from production increases in the U.S., Libya and Nigeria could all threaten the rally, he cautioned.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that a pledge by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers, including Russia, to cut oil output to boost prices could be extended to the end of 2018, instead of expiring in March 2018.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Thursday that Moscow would support new countries joining the agreement to restrict oil supply.

The statement came ahead of a visit by Saudi Arabia's King Salman to Moscow.

"Putin and Salman will most likely reach, but not announce, an agreement to extend the OPEC/non-OPEC production deal, though with a commitment to taper the cuts," said consultancy Eurasia Group.

The pact on cutting output by about 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) took effect in January this year.

Despite this, other factors weighed on oil prices, including the return to production of Libya's Sharara oilfield after an armed brigade forced a two-day shutdown.

Higher U.S. oil exports also dampened market sentiment.

U.S. crude oil exports jumped to 1.98 million bpd last week, surpassing the 1.5 million bpd record set the previous week, the Energy Information Administration said.

The increase has been triggered by the wide discount in U.S. crude prices against Brent, making U.S. oil attractive on world markets.

Beyond short-term market drivers, analysts at Barclays bank said future oil demand could be undermined by improving fuel-efficiency and the rise of electric vehicles (EV).

"EV uptake and increased fleet fuel-efficiency could cut oil demand by around 3.5 million bpd in 2025," the bank said. That is almost as much as major OPEC member Iran produces.

If the uptake of EVs rose to one-third of new cars by 2040, as many industry analysts expect, up from just 1 percent now, that could "affect oil demand by around 9 million bpd", Barclays said.