SEOUL, Feb 12 (Reuters) - U.S. crude futures rose above $49.50 a barrel on Thursday as the Ukraine army suffered some of the heaviest losses in the nine-month war, and Saudi Arabia and Russia’s energy giant Gazprom discussed cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers.
The gains pared some of the losses triggered last week by a fifth consecutive week of record high U.S. crude inventory.
* U.S. crude futures for March delivery rose 60 cents at $49.44 as of 0039 GMT after it closed down $1.18, or about 2 percent, at $48.84 a barrel on Wednesday.
* Benchmark Brent oil previously dropped below the $55-per-barrel support level, settling down $1.77, or 3 percent, at $54.66 a barrel.
* The leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine held peace talks in Belarus on Wednesday, while Ukraine’s army said 19 of its soldiers were killed in pro-Russian separatist assaults near the railway town of Debaltseve, some of the worst losses it has reported in nine months of war.
* Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi met in Riyadh with Viktor Zubkov, chairman of state-controlled Russian energy giant Gazprom, and discussed cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers. He also held similar talks with Algerian Justice Minister Tayeb Louh.
* U.S. commercial crude oil inventories rose 4.9 million barrels in the week to Feb. 6 to 417.9 million, the highest level for this time of the year in at least the last 80 years. Analysts had expected an increase of 3.7 million barrels on average.
* An advance in U.S. stocks halted and European shares slipped on Wednesday on investor worries over the outcome of euro zone ministerial meetings about Greece’s debt crisis, while oil prices dropped for a second day on more signs of oversupply.
The U.S. dollar hit a five-week high against the Japanese yen at 120.44 yen, bolstered by a rise in U.S. Treasury yields.
* The following data is expected on Thursday: (Time in GMT)
1000 Euro zone Industrial output Dec
1330 U.S. Retail sales Jan
1330 U.S. Weekly jobless claims
1500 U.S. Business inventories Dec (Reporting by Meeyoung Cho; Editing by Michael Perry)