In order to get back to $50 per barrel, oil prices could face a long, onerous process of erasing oversupply, commodities specialist Helima Croft said Thursday. But she added an upcoming OPEC meeting might provide some hope.
"We still have a supply overhang," said Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets. "We still have these concerns over inventory levels, so we do want to watch what comes out of the April 17 OPEC, non-OPEC meeting."
OPEC producers and nonmembers of the cartel will be gathering in Qatar to discuss an output freeze, even as Iran seeks to pump more crude after the U.S. and other world powers lifted sanctions in January.
Croft told CNBC's " Worldwide Exchange " that the mere acknowledgement from international stakeholders that low oil was a problem helped spark the recent rally, which saw crude (New York Mercantile Exchange: @CL.1) bounce 40 percent since the Feb. 11 bottom below $30 per barrel.
"It was the first time you had big producers saying 'We're not so good in this oil price environment,'" she said.
But Croft predicted a tough road ahead for crude, which was still down about 60 percent from its June 2014 peak. "We think the move to $50 [in 2016] is easier than the move to $60 to $65," she said. "We do need to start to see those inventories working down."
U.S. production is dropping, falling from about 9.6 million barrels per day to about 9 million barrels currently, Croft said, but stressed the idea that oversupply won't be erased easily.
"The question is 'Where can you put this [supply]?'" she added. "When do we get to a situation where the supply story starts to ebb?"
Demand overall has actually remained solid, but concern about a slowdown in Chinese usage remains a key part of the oil narrative, Croft said.
In addition to the macro forces, she said she's watching the Federal Reserve and the hawkish statements made by officials from the central bank last week. "I think that was a real drag on price."
But Croft said Fed Chair Janet Yellen 's dovish speech Tuesday did "provide a bit of a cushion."
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