Crude oil has finally defined a rough midterm trading range, according to one expert.

Stephen Schork, energy analyst at The Schork Report, says that range is $35 to $50 a barrel.

Crude oil prices were moving higher Thursday after two consecutive days of losses at the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Thursday's movement reaffirms the suspicion of many traders that crude oil has been trading beneath a strong resistance level near $50 a barrel. That trading range can be seen fairly clearly in the following chart:

West Texas Intermediate Crude Price on the Nymex
Nymex
Department of Energy

Schork said in an interview on Wednesday that OPEC could affect this trading range when it meets this weekend. He said that prices would likely fall if OPEC decides to keep existing production quotas steady.

However, Schork advised investors to not fully expect an upward move in oil prices if OPEC chooses to cut production. That is because the global market is currently enjoying an enormous spare-capacity cushion that it hasn't seen in years.

As recently as 12 months ago, the Energy Information Administration and the International Energy Agency were both reporting that global spare capacity (the difference between maximum potential production and consumer demand) was less than 1 million barrels per day.

Back when China was reporting annual GDP growth of 12%, the 1 million-barrel cushion had energy traders on edge.

Today's global spare capacity lies somewhere around 6 million barrels per day, according to James Williams, energy economist at WTRG economics. Demand destruction due to $100-a-barrel oil carved out some of this new spare capacity. The remainder was wrung from the struggling global economy and plummeting consumer spending.

Thus, Schork and Williams both believe that if OPEC decides to cut production at this weekend's summit, it would mostly go toward sopping up some of the spare capacity in the system. It would not be enough to tighten global crude supplies to the extent that a bull market for crude oil would emerge.

Elsewhere in the energy space, energy stocks were mixed early Thursday afternoon.

BP ( BP) was down fractionally at $37.16 a barrel; Chevron ( CVX) was moving 0.7% higher at $61.66 a share; ConocoPhillips ( COP) was sliding 4% at $36.37; Royal Dutch Shell ( RDS.A) was up 1.7% at $44.04 a share, and Exxon Mobil ( XOM) was advancing 0.6% at $66.13 a share.

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