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Oil rallies to fresh 5-week highs as OPEC meeting kicks off – – Oil prices were higher in European trading on Thursday, touching a fresh five-week high ahead of an OPEC meeting later in the global day.

The U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude July contract hit its strongest since April 19 at $51.93 a barrel in overnight trade. It was last at $51.73 by 3:20AM ET (07:20GMT), up 37 cents, or around 0.7%.

Elsewhere, Brent oil for July delivery on the ICE Futures Exchange in London tacked on 43 cents to $54.38 a barrel, after climbing to its highest since April 19 at $54.62 a day earlier.

Oil ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other major producing countries will meet in Vienna on Thursday to decide whether to extend their current production agreement beyond a June 30-deadline.

In November last year, OPEC and 11 other non-OPEC producers, including Russia, agreed to cut output by about 1.8 million barrels per day between January 1 and June 30.

Most market analysts expect the oil cartel to extend output cuts for a further nine months until March 2018, instead of six months as previously expected.

There is also talk that OPEC is looking at the option of deepening current production cuts, but it is not clear whether there would be support for that.

So far, the production-cut agreement has had little impact on global inventory levels due to rising supply from producers not participating in the accord, such as Libya, and a relentless increase in U.S. shale oil output.

The U.S. rig count rose for the 18th week in a row to the highest level since April 2015 last week, implying that further gains in domestic production are ahead.

Elsewhere on Nymex, gasoline futures for June inched up 0.9 cents, or 0.5%, to $1.661 a gallon, while June heating oil advanced 1.2 cents to $1.618 a gallon.

Natural gas futures for July delivery climbed 1.1 cents to $3.311 per million British thermal units, as traders looked ahead to weekly storage data due later in the global day.

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