Oil prices increased on Thursday ahead of the critical OPEC+ meeting when the group is expected to maintain the current production levels.
International benchmark Brent crude was trading at $64.36 per barrel at 0641 GMT for a 0.45% increase after closing Wednesday at $64.07 a barrel.
American benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was at $61.52 per barrel at the same time for a 0.39% increase after it ended the previous session at $61.28 a barrel.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC countries, known as OPEC+, are due to meet later on Thursday to discuss production quotas after March.
The group’s overall output cut in January was 7.2 million barrels per day (bpd). This was increased to 8.125 million bpd in February and 8.05 million bpd in March, which includes the 1 million bpd additional cut from Saudi Arabia, the de-facto OPEC leader and driver of OPEC+ production cuts.
With the support of OPEC+ cuts, oil prices significantly increased to pre-pandemic levels and reached $67 a barrel.
Investors are hopeful that a positive decision will be taken at Thursday’s meeting in refraining from increasing production levels to keep the market in balance.
The price increases came despite a massive increase in US crude oil inventories.
US crude oil stocks increased by 21.6 million barrels, smashing the market expectation of a 1.9 million-barrel draw, and marking the biggest increase on record since 1982.
Meanwhile, the country's gasoline inventories plunged to an all-time low. Gasoline inventories decreased by a record 13.6 million barrels, or 5.3%, to 243.5 million barrels over the period.
Unexpected increases and decreases in stocks came after production fell by as much as 65% in Texas, which experienced one of its coldest winters in decades, causing major blackouts and refinery production halts.
By Sibel Morrow