March 9 (UPI) -- Oil prices fell sharply Thursday, with West Texas Intermediate crude falling below $49 per barrel for the first time this year.
WTI and Brent crude oil closed downward Wednesday after U.S. supply data showed inventories are at record highs. The buildup comes as OPEC countries are attempting to reduce production to stabilize the market. The April contract, CLJ7, fell 2.8 percent to $48.88 per barrel; all WTI and Brent contracts for 2017 fell slightly on Thursday.
Ole Hanson of Saxo Bank said the drop came as traders stopped betting oil prices would increase. He added that if oil prices fell below a resistance level of around $47.18, prices could fall to the November low of $42.20 per barrel, Marketwatch.com reported Thursday.
Speaking in Houston on Tuesday, OPEC Secretary-General Mohammed Barkindo said commitment from the countries involved in cutting production, including Saudi Arabia and Iraq, "remains high."
Natural gas contracts were up, with the NGJ17 contract for April up 1.79 percent at $2.90 per million BTUs, May's NHK17 at $3.027, June's NGM17 at $3.099 and July's NGN17 at $3.162.