CRUDE CONCERNS: Oil prices found their footing after tumbling during U.S. trading on uncertainty over whether OPEC will extend an agreement to cut production to shore up prices. Member nations of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries are due to discuss the deal later this month. U.S. benchmark crude futures rose 20 cents to $45.61 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract slumped to its lowest level since late November, losing $2.30, or nearly 5 percent, to settle at $45.52 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, the standard for international oils, rose 19 cents to $48.47 in London after a similar decline.
QUOTEWORTHY: “The collapse in oil prices saw (benchmark West Texas Intermediate) plunge as the market continues to probe for a bottom amid oversupply concerns,” said Stephen Innes, senior trader at OANDA. Oil is now near the psychological $45 level “which, if broken could send the oil pits into complete disarray and will likely have far-reaching consequences for both equity and currency markets near term,” he added.
ENERGY SHARES: Oil company stocks led declines. PetroChina, China’s biggest oil producer, lost 2.6 percent and Sinopec, the country’s largest refiner, fell 1.5 percent. Australia’s Woodside Petroleum slid 2 percent.
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