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Oil snaps declining streak as Saudi, Russia meeting calms markets

By Shariq Khan

BENGALURU (Reuters) -Oil prices settled 1% higher on Thursday, ending a three-session losing streak, after reports that Saudi Arabia and Russia met to discuss ways to enhance market stability.

Brent crude futures rose $1.37, or 1%, to settle at $74.70 a barrel, while the West Texas Intermediate crude futures (WTI) gained 74 cents, or 1.1%, to settle at $68.35 a barrel.

Saudi state media reported that the country's energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Russian deputy prime minister Alexander Novak met in the Saudi capital to discuss the OPEC+ group's efforts to maintain market balance.


Both countries remain committed to OPEC+'s decision last October to cut production targets by two million barrels per day until the end of 2023, the reports stated.

"That news woke up the bulls in the market, and it was kind of expected with the sell-off that we have seen over the past few sessions," said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital.

Earlier in Thursday's session both contracts had dropped by more than $1 a barrel to near 15-month lows. On Wednesday, U.S. crude fell below $70 a barrel for the first time since Dec. 20, 2021.

Oil prices were also supported by a broader recovery in financial markets after Credit Suisse was thrown a lifeline by Swiss regulators, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen assured lawmakers that the U.S. banking system remains sound.

The dollar weakened on Thursday, making greenback-denominated oil cheaper for holders of foreign currencies and boosting demand.

Both OPEC and the International Energy Agency (IEA) have this week forecast stronger oil demand, but oversupply concerns continue to weigh on the market.

The IEA said commercial oil stocks in developed OECD countries had hit an 18-month high while Russian oil output in February stayed near levels registered before the war in Ukraine, despite sanctions on its seaborne exports.

"Market sentiment remains fragile as investors continue to weigh up the latest developments in the banking sector both in the U.S. and in Europe," said Fiona Cincotta, Senior Financial Markets Analyst at City Index.

The European Central Bank's decision to hike interest rates, as expected, also weighed on oil prices.

Oil trading will continue to be volatile, especially if other central banks persevere with rate hikes, said Craig Erlam, analyst at OANDA.

"Authorities may have thrown their support behind the banking sector while managing the collapse of the mid-tier institutions in the U.S. but traders are far from convinced that the worst is behind us," Erlam said.

(Reporting by Shariq KhanAdditional reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar, Muyu Xu; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle, David Gregorio and Susan Fenton)