MTECHTIPS Crude futures bounced off session lows and settled more than 0.5% higher on Thursday, following reports OPEC could extend its output-cut agreement to non-members amid concerns of a surge in U.S. crude and shale production. Crude prices have come under pressure in recent sessions, as the latest drilling reports from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), compounded fears that increase drilling activity from U.S. crude will underpinned OPEC and other producers’ efforts to combat the demand and supply imbalance in the industry. It remains to seen whether crude can hold onto recent gains, as U.S. oil inventories have risen sharply in the past few weeks, with crude and U.S. gasoline inventories hitting all-time records last week, the U.S. Energy Department said on Wednesday. The EIA predicts U.S. shale oil production will rise by a total of 80,000 barrels a day to 4.87 million barrels a day in March – the highest rate of shale oil production since May last year. Crude prices were also helped by a decline in the dollar as market participants weighed up the possibility of an interest rate hike at the Fed’s March 14-15 meeting. On the New York Mercantile Exchange Crude Oil Futures for March delivery rose 0.29% to settle at $53.36 a barrel, up 25 cents while on London’s Intercontinental Exchange, Brent was down 4 cents to settle at $55.71 a barrel.