[SINGAPORE] Oil prices bounced back in Asia on Thursday but trading was cautious on signs the Opec cartel is divided ahead of a meeting on whether to maintain or slash its high output levels.
The US benchmark West Texas Intermediate closed below US$40 a barrel for the first time since late August on Wednesday after data showed an increase in US commercial stockpiles and production, adding to anxiety about a long-running supply glut.
Focus is now on the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries meeting in Vienna Friday. Analysts say the 12 members appear to be divided, with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf partners at odds with others pushing for a cut in output in a bid to perk up prices.
WTI for delivery in January was up 20 cents at US$40.14 and Brent crude was trading 23 cents higher at US$42.72 at around 0300 GMT.
WTI fell 4.6 per cent Wednesday while Brent sank 4.4 per cent.
Bloomberg News said Venezuela and Ecuador - which have been badly hit by the plunge in prices - would seek production cuts during the meeting.
IHS Energy said Saudi, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will have great influence on the tone of the meeting as they account for more than half of OPEC's 31.5 million barrels per day output.
"Without the Gulf group, there can be no effective Opec agreement," IHS Energy said in a report ahead of Friday's meeting.
Opec has been pumping above its collective target of 30 million barrels per day as its influential members led by Saudi Arabia try to maintain their share of a highly competitive market.
Prices have plunged by more than half from peaks of above US$100 a barrel in mid-2014 largely because of the oversupply.