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Oil prices up in volatile trading

Oil moving higher, though Conoco chairman says market uncertainty remains.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   Feb. 4, 2016 at 10:14 AM
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NEW YORK, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices moved in volatile territory Thursday after a string of poor earnings reports balanced against ongoing rumors of potential production cuts.

In releasing its fourth quarter report, Weatherford International, which services the upstream energy sector, said 2015 was likely the most challenging in its 75-year history. Exxon Mobil was among the few companies to report any resemblance of a profit for the quarter, with Shell adding to the pessimism Thursday by confirming job cuts of around 10,000.

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Oil prices flirted with minor losses in the overnight session following a major rally Wednesday sparked by speculation that members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries might cooperate with non-members to trim output. Oil moved back into positive territory at the start of the trading day in New York, however.

Brent crude oil prices moved up by 1.4 percent to start the day at $35.56 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for oil, gained 3.2 percent to open at $33.32 per barrel.

Oil prices are off about 25 percent from the start of fourth quarter 2015. Conoco Phillips Chairman and CEO Ryan Lance said Thursday "we don't know how far commodity prices will fall."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday he was open to discussing production levels with OPEC. Venezuela became the latest to add to the rumors of a meeting. Analysts told Bloomberg News that, while meeting was one thing, agreeing on cuts was unlikely.

OPEC ministers ended their last regular meeting in December fractured on expectations of Iran's return to the global oil market.

Oil prices may feel some influence from data figures from the U.S. Labor Department. For the week ending Jan. 30, initial claims for unemployment moved up 8,000 to 285,000. The four-week average increased 2,000 to 284,750.

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