NEW YORK - Oil fell more than 4 percent in choppy trading on Thursday after OPEC and allied exporting countries ended a meeting without announcing a decision to cut crude output, and prepared to debate the matter the next day.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) met in Vienna to decide production policy in coordination with other countries including Russia, Oman and Kazakhstan.
An OPEC delegate said the organization had agreed on a tentative deal to cut oil output but had not come up with a final figure.
Earlier, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said OPEC needed Russia to cooperate, and said a decision was likely by Friday evening.
"If everybody is not willing to join and contribute equally, we will wait until they are," al-Falih said.
Market watchers had expected a joint cut of 1 million to 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd).
Brent crude futures were down $2.57, or 4.2 percent, on the day to $58.99 a barrel by 11:41 EST (1641 GMT), off the session low of $58.36. U.S. crude futures fell $2.37, or 4.5 percent, to $50.52 a barrel, bouncing off the session low of $50.08 a barrel.
The crude benchmarks have slumped about 30 percent this quarter.
Prices found support briefly after data showed U.S. crude stockpiles declined last week for the first time in 11 weeks. The United States became a net exporter of crude and refined products for the first time since at least 1991, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed. [EIA/S]
"Fears of a further escalation in the US-China trade war, and potential for OPEC+ not cutting oil production deep enough will continue to weigh on oil prices in today's trading session," said Abhishek Kumar, Senior Energy Analyst at Interfax Energy in London.
"All eyes are now fixated on tomorrow's OPEC+ joint declaration, and a combined output cut of at least 1 million barrels per day will be required to see a meaningful recovery in oil prices."
Led by Saudi Arabia, OPEC's crude oil production has risen by 4.1 percent since mid-2018, to 33.31 million bpd.
European equities hit their lowest in two years and commodity-sensitive currencies such as the Russian rouble fell sharply, in part because of the slide in the oil price, but also with the arrest of a top executive of Chinese tech giant Huawei in Canada for extradition to the United States
The arrest came just as Washington and Beijing prepare for crucial trade negotiations.
Barclays said in its Global Outlook published on Thursday that "investors need to lower their expectations" and "2019 should be a period of lower returns and higher volatility".
Barclays said it expected "the global economy to slow over the next several quarters" although it added that "not one major economy is near recession."
U.S. crude inventories have climbed steadily as domestic production surged to new peaks. Exports of U.S. crude also jumped to a record 3.2 million barrels per day last week, adding to global supplies. Stockpiles at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for U.S. crude futures, rose to the highest in nearly a year.