Oil prices rose more than two dollars in Asia in a technical bounce Friday, after falling below 70 dollars for the first time in more than a year, on worries over falling demand, analysts said.
They said the overall market trend is bearish and noted that the OPEC cartel decided to hold an extraordinary meeting earlier than expected next Friday -- instead of in November -- to discuss the global financial crisis and its impact on the oil market.
"To see OPEC panicking like that is, first of all, very bearish," said Dave Ernsberger, Asia director of global energy information provider Platts.
"That tells you that something must really be wrong with this market."
New York's main futures contract, light sweet crude for November delivery, rose 2.50 dollars to 72.35 dollars per barrel.
The contract had fallen 4.69 dollars to 69.85 Thursday at the New York Mercantile Exchange, the first time the benchmark contract closed below the 70-dollar level since August 2007.
Brent North Sea crude for December delivery rose 2.14 dollars to 69.94.
The November contract expired at the close of trade Thursday after slumping 4.48 dollars to settle at 66.32 in London.
Oil prices have plunged from record highs above 147 dollars, reached in July, because of worries over demand in a slowing global economy, dealers said.
They said those concerns were reinforced by data released Thursday by the United States Department of Energy (DoE).
Figures showed a build in US petroleum reserves, which exceeded market forecasts, and a steep decline in oil consumption in the world's largest energy consumer.
Ernsberger said the sharp falls in crude prices on Thursday were almost entirely due to the DoE figures and, in the absence of other factors to push prices higher Friday, the rebound in Asia was just a technical rise.
"The market looks extremely bearish," he said.
The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cartel said Thursday its special ministerial meeting on the impact of the financial crisis on oil prices would be brought forward to October 24 from November 18.
Announcing the special meeting last week, the cartel said it was "concerned about the deteriorating economic conditions." Several OPEC members have called for the meeting to cut output to shore up prices.
OPEC's current output quota is 28.8 million barrels per day.
"Bringing forward the meeting to Friday 24th October sends a clear signal that OPEC is concerned about the speed with which oil prices are slipping away from a preferred price of around 80 dollars a barrel," said Lawrence Eagles at JP Morgan.
The thought of oil prices falling back to 40 or 50 dollars a barrel in a slowing global economy is terrifying to the OPEC members, Ernsberger said, predicting they may be tempted to make a production cut "that is very bullish."
But Victor Shum, an analyst with Purvin and Gertz international energy consultancy in Singapore, has said he expected the cartel to do "some quiet trimming" of output rather than formally announce a cut.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown last week appealed to OPEC not to reduce output at a time of near-unprecedented economic crisis.
In its weekly report released Thursday, the US energy department said crude stockpiles leapt by 5.6 million barrels, to 308.2 million barrels, in the week ended October 10. Most analysts expected less than half that rise, at 2.2 million barrels.
Gasoline stockpiles rose by 7.0 million barrels, to 193.8 million barrels, far exceeding market expectations of a 2.8 million barrel gain.
Weakening demand fell again: consumption of petroleum products in the past four weeks slid 8.9 percent from a year ago, to an average of 18.6 million barrels a day.