Oil prices reversed earlier losses on Thursday, reaching a fresh three-week high amid speculation that OPEC will extend its production-cut deal beyond June.
Brent oil for June delivery on the ICE Futures Exchange in London rose 23 cents, or around 0.5%, to $52.78 a barrel by 9:00AM ET (13:00GMT), after hitting a high of $52.95 earlier, the most since March 10.
Elsewhere, the U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude May contract reached a session peak of $49.98 a barrel, also the highest since March 10. It was last at $49.85, up 34 cents.
Crude prices rose to the highest levels of the session following reports saying that Kuwait and other OPEC countries support extending production cuts beyond June to balance the market.
OPEC agreed in November last year to curb its output by about 1.2 million barrels per day between January and June. Russia and 10 other non-OPEC producers have agreed to jointly cut by an additional 600,000 barrels per day.
In total, they agreed to reduce output by 1.8 million barrels per day to 32.5 million for the first six months of the year, but so far the move has had little impact on inventory levels.
A joint committee of ministers from OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers will meet in late April to present its recommendation on the fate of the pact. A final decision on whether or not to extend the deal beyond June will be taken by the oil cartel on May 25.
Oil has fallen sharply this month amid concern that the ongoing rebound in U.S. shale production could derail efforts by other major producers to rebalance global oil supply and demand.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Wednesday that crude oil inventories increased by 867,000 barrels last week to yet another all-time high of 534.0 million.
Elsewhere on Nymex, gasoline futures for May tacked on 0.7 cents, or 0.5%, to $1.681 a gallon, while May heating oil added 0.7 cents to $1.553 a gallon.
Natural gas futures for May delivery shed 3.9 cents to $3.192 per million British thermal units, as traders looked ahead to weekly storage data due later in the global day.