Oil prices fell in Q1 as USA stepped up crude production

But Russia is not a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and in February, oil-production cuts among non-OPEC producers including Russia stood at 64% compliance while OPEC members were at 106% compliance.

West Texas Intermediate for May delivery was at $49.45 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down 6 cents, at 12:42 p.m.in London. That was the contract's fourth consecutive gain and highest settlement since March 7.

In late afternoon trading on Friday, the benchmark futures contract was at $50.66 USA a barrel, up 30 cents from Thursday, but down 5.6 per cent on the year to date.

Brent futures settled down 13 cents at $US52.83 a barrel.

Short-sellers backed out of the market following a three-week rout that sent prices to yearly lows.

Traders reacted to media reports that Kuwaiti officials signaled OPEC is considering continuing oil-production beyond this summer, when agreements between OPEC countries and non-OPEC counterparts expires. Iran's Bijan Zanganeh said both OPEC and non-OPEC members are planning to extend the agreement, pending further face-to-face discussions.

He said Russian Federation is gradually reducing its oil production and plans to reduce its oil output by 300,000 barrels a day by late April.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs have warned that an extension of the OPEC deal is not required since the market is already adjusting.

"The weekly USA oil statistics were bullish", said Tamas Varga, an analyst at PVM Oil Associates Ltd.

Some analysts expect the price rally to wane in the coming days on profit-taking and technical re-positioning.

"The initial liquidation in net long positions is a concern; it reflects weaker market confidence in oil prices, amid rising United States shale investment and production", said Cailin Birch, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Energy services firm Baker Hughes said US oil rigs increased by 10 to 662 in the week, making the first quarter the strongest for oil rig additions since mid-2011. The active rig count increased by ten to a total of 662.

Later on March 31, Baker Hughes Inc. "The inventory side in the U.S.is starting to show signs of turning and that's also provided support".

Brent crude LCOc1 is expected to average $57.25 per barrel in 2017, slightly lower than last month's forecast of $57.52, the poll of 32 economists and analysts showed. The contracts have lost around 7% since the previous quarter, the worst quarterly losses since late 2015.

The strong uptrend in USA crude production, meanwhile, is keeping investors from placing bullish bets. Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 1.9 million barrels, versus expectations for a 1.4 million-barrel drop, according to EIA data. Refineries processed 16.2 million barrels a day of crude last week, up 425,000 barrels from the prior week, according to the EIA.

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