Oil prices fell sharply Friday after influential energy ministers said a group of two dozen producer nations could soon begin easing the production limits they put in place last year to drain a global crude glut.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak met with his Saudi counterpart, Khalid Al-Falih, in St. Petersburg to discuss the deal, which has aimed to keep 1.8 million barrels a day off the market since January 2017. The parties are now considering a gradual exit to that deal to compensate for falling production in crisis-stricken Venezuela and anticipated export disruption from Iran, which faces renewed U.S. sanctions.
"The moment is coming when we should consider assessing ways to exit the deal very seriously and gradually ease quotas on output cuts," Novak said in televised comments, according to Reuters.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude prices dropped below $68 a barrel, slipping further from this week's peak of $72.83, its highest since November 2014. The contract finished the session down $2.83, or 4 percent, at $67.88 a barrel.
Meanwhile, Brent crude fell $2.42, or 3.1 percent, to $76.37 by 2:27 p.m. ET. The international benchmark for oil prices last week hit a 3½-year high of $80.50, also going back to November 2014.
Brent is down nearly 3 percent this week, on track to break a six-week winning streak. U.S. crude is down almost 5 percent for the week.
"Today's low at $67.50 was an important support level, but really to change the complexion of the chart fullsomely you need to get under $66," said John Kilduff, founding partner at energy hedge fund Again Capital.
"Then the year long uptrend channel will have been broken and you'd look for even lower prices from there, targeting $60 to $62."
The ministers are considering a supply increase of as much as 1 million barrels a day to cool the market, sources told Reuters. Al-Falih is particularly concerned about the impact of oil prices above $80 a barrel on consumer nations like China and India, the news agency reported.
The move to potentially ease the production caps follows news reports that Saudi Arabia was roughly targeting $80 a barrel to support domestic initiatives. Those reports helped bolster crude prices within the last two months.