Singapore: Oil prices stabilised on Thursday on expectations that Saudi Arabia and Russia would extend production cuts, although record U.S. exports dragged on the market.
Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $55.89 per barrel at 0259 GMT, up 9 cents, or 0.16 percent, from their previous close.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that a pledge by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers, including Russia, to cut oil output to boost prices could be extended to the end of 2018, instead of expiring in March 2018.
The statement came ahead of a visit by Saudi Arabia's King Salman to Moscow.
"Putin and Salman will most likely reach, but not announce, an agreement to extend the OPEC/non-OPEC production deal, though with a commitment to taper the cuts," said consultancy Eurasia Group.
The pact on cutting output by about 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) took effect in January this year.
In the United States, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were weaker, trading at $49.97 per barrel, down 1 cent from their last close.
That came after the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said late on Wednesday that U.S. crude oil exports jumped to 1.98 million bpd last week, surpassing the 1.5 million bpd record set the previous week.
The increase has been triggered by the wide discount in U.S. WTI prices against international Brent crude prices, which makes U.S. oil exports attractive.
Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Denmark's Saxo Bank said it was "still too early" for oil markets to expect crude prices to see a sustained period above $60 per barrel.
Beyond short-term market drivers, analysts at Barclays bank said oil demand could be seriously dented by improving fuel-efficiency and the rise of electric vehicles (EV).
"EV uptake and increased fleet fuel-efficiency could cut oil demand by around 3.5 million bpd in 2025," the bank said. That is almost as much as major OPEC member Iran produces.
Should the uptake of EVs rise to one-third of new cars by 2040, as many industry analysts expect, up from just 1 percent today, that could "affect oil demand by around 9 million bpd", Barclays said.