Nigeria's energy minister on Wednesday insisted that OPEC and Russia are in agreement on extending oil production cuts, even as the market sold off on uncertainty over the nearly one-year-old deal.
Oil prices fell sharply at midday on Wednesday after energy ministers sent mixed signals about extending an agreement that has kept about 1.8 million barrels a day off the market since January. The goal of the coordinated output cuts is to shrink huge global stockpiles of crude and stabilize oil prices following a three-year slump.
A committee that monitors the deal recommended that a group of 24 oil-producing nations participating in the accord extend it by nine months. But Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak declined to say whether he supported that option, stoking fears about Russia's commitment that have weighed on prices all week.
Reports that OPEC is considering either a six-month extension or a nine-month extension to be reviewed in June have roiled the market. Traders entered the week expecting the deal, which expires in March, to be extended through the end of 2018 without caveats.