By Dan Strumpf

Oil futures were in a lull in Asian trade on Thursday, pausing after data showed a fall in U.S. crude inventories last week and amid a dearth of fresh updates from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Light, sweet crude for January delivery gained 3 cents, or 0.1%, to $47.99 a barrel in the Globex electronic session on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude eased two cents, less than 0.1%, to $48.93 a barrel.

Headlines on OPEC have been the dominant factor driving price moves in the oil market for much of this year. Prices have rebounded off their lows near $40 a barrel in recent sessions. Anticipation has been building that the cartel will follow through with a production cut at its Vienna meeting set for Nov. 30, though some sticking points remain around the terms of a cut for members such as Iran and Iraq.

"The main driver for the doubt comes from Iran and Iraq with, neither nation beholden to Saudi dominance within OPEC," said Stuart Ive, private client manager at OM Financial. "The consequence of no deal will be well known to all and one that none can afford, even the Saudis," he said.

Most analysts expect a swift fall in oil prices if OPEC fails to reach a deal. Futures remained stuck in neutral despite a bullish inventory report released early Wednesday in the U.S. Oil stockpiles there fell by 1.3 million barrels in the week ended Nov. 18, surprising analysts surveyed by The Wall Street Journal who had expected an inventory increase.

Nymex reformulated gasoline blendstock for December--the benchmark gasoline contract--fell 4 points to $1.4213 a gallon, while December diesel traded at $1.5191, 22 points higher.

ICE gasoil for December changed hands at $443.75 a metric ton, down $2.00 from Wednesday's settlement.

Write to Dan Strumpf at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 23, 2016 23:38 ET (04:38 GMT)

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