BRUSSELS — Crude oil futures rose sharply Thursday after OPEC ministers agreed to hold an emergency meeting on May 2 to try to brake the recent price slide that pushed crude to its lowest levels in 16 months.
Prices rallied immediately after word spread that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries had decided to call a special session of its eight-member monitoring panel.
Sadek Boussena of Algeria, the cartel's acting president, said an urgent meeting was necessary, "given the persistence of the deterioration registered on the international oil market."
"This meeting will examine the measures needed to halt the constant degradation of the market and to raise prices so as to re-establish them at the level set by OPEC," Boussena said in a statement released by Algerian officials in London.
The May contract for West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark U.S. crude, jumped $1.10 per 42-gallon barrel to settle at $18.06 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Other contracts also gained.
"The market has decided to take it very bullishly," Nick Antill, analyst at the London-based investment firm of County NatWest, said of OPEC's announcement.
The crude had been trading in the range of $20 to $21 a barrel early in April. It plummeted nearly 90 cents in the two previous sessions, finishing at its lowest since December, 1988.
Prices have been pummeled on reports that OPEC was exceeding its own output limits at a time of seasonal declines in demand by oil consuming nations.
The average price of seven crudes used as the cartel's reference plummeted to $15.38 a barrel last week, compared to $17.12 a barrel in the first week of April and well below OPEC's target price of $18 a barrel.