The market was initially supported after a report said OPEC and its allies led by Russian Federation would meet on Saturday to discuss extending record oil production cuts and to approve a new approach that aims to force laggards such as Iraq and Nigeria to comply better with the existing curbs.
If Opec+ fails to agree to roll over the output curbs, the cut could drop back to 7.7 million bpd from July through December as previously agreed.
Despite the volumes of ink being spilled, the free-rider story has failed to move the needle to any significant degree, suggesting the market remains confident that any difficulties will be resolved by the time the meeting takes place.
Oil headed for a sixth weekly gain after OPEC+ reached a tentative agreement to prolong its record production cuts.
The huge build in distillate inventory in the US, the world's biggest oil user, also weighed on prices, said CMC Markets' chief market strategist, Michael McCarthy.
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Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization technical lead on COVID-19, said during a media briefing from Geneva Friday. President Donald Trump has also publicly expressed his distaste for wearing masks in front of journalists.
In Friday afternoon deals, WTI oil prices were up 2.3 percent at $38.27 per barrel, while London Brent crude was 3.0 percent higher at $41.19. "If we see jet fuel demand recover, that may give us hope that we can look ahead to a day where these supplies can dwindle down", said Mr Flynn, pointing to American Airlines Group's announcement Thursday about increased USA flights in July.
Further, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf producers, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are not planning to extend voluntary additional output cuts of 1.18 million bpd after June, indicating crude supply could rise next month no matter what OPEC+ decides.
The decision by Opec+ producers to bring forward the meeting June 6 from their earlier agreed dates of June 9 and 10 "will set the tone for the markets" when they reopen, said Ann-Louise Hittle, vice president, macro oils at Wood Mackenzie. "We have already closed oil wells to fulfill the commitment we made", the president said at a press conference.
Brent recovered from session lows and is anchored to $40 per barrel into the NY session close, but traders are still waiting for clarification on an OPEC free-rider dispute.
Yet the market could look "sharply different" on Monday, depending on the outcome of the weekend deliberations, Think Markets analyst Fawad Razaqzada told AFP.