NEW YORK, March 4 (UPI) -- Speculation surrounding a Moscow meeting of oil producing nations gave a lift to crude oil prices, capping off a week of broad market volatility.
Crude oil prices started the week in black territory when markets reacted positively to the latest stimulus efforts in China. The rally faded midweek after Moody's Investors Service raised questions about Chinese economic policies, adding to pressure from higher U.S. crude oil inventories.
Saudi Arabia joined Russia and other oil producers in January in calling for a production freeze to stimulate oil prices, which are off about 40 percent from this time last year. Nigerian Oil Minister and president of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries Emmanuel Kachikwu confirmed parties would meet March 20 in Russia to "fine tune collaborative strategies."
Crude oil prices rallied on the back of the announcement. Brent crude oil prices moved up 1 percent to start the day at $37.45 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for crude oil, gained 0.5 percent at the start of trading in New York to open at $34.76 per barrel.
The rally could lose traction, however, as the Kremlin downplayed the meeting. Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov said any potential meeting was still in the coordinating stage.
"Details still have to be agreed, and it is premature to announce anything," he said.
Markets ebbed on the back of U.S. crude oil inventory data, though official data show U.S. production may be on the decline. The sector still shows signs of weakness, however. Oil field services company Baker Hughes reported a U.S. rig count of 502 for the week ending Feb. 26, down 12 from the previous week. The international rig count lost 50 for the week to 1,045.