By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Crude oil prices tumbled on Thursday, erasing the gains made since a production cut deal last November, while the euro strengthened against the U.S. dollar as a pro-European Union centrist looked set to win the French presidency.
Corporate results boosted European stocks to their highest in almost two years, while losses in energy shares and gains in the healthcare sector kept Wall Street little changed.
Oil prices fell to the lowest since late November on signs that OPEC and other producing countries would not take more drastic steps to reduce the world's persistent glut of crude.
U.S. crude fell 5.06 percent to $45.40 per barrel and Brent was at $48.35, down 4.8 percent on the day.
"While (OPEC) is expected to extend a self-imposed production cap by another six months, it will be a challenge to convince several non-OPEC members to follow suit," said Abhishek Kumar, senior energy analyst at Interfax Energy’s Global Gas Analytics.
"Persistent growth in U.S. oil production ... will also make extensions of the OPEC cap beyond 2017 unlikely."
Bets on the U.S. Federal Reserve raising rates next month rose to a 74 percent chance from 71 percent Wednesday, with help from data showing further tightening in the labor market.
In a statement after a two-day policy meeting Wednesday, the Fed downplayed other recent weak economic data and said consumer spending remained solid, business investment had firmed and inflation was close to its target.
Traders remained cautious ahead of Friday's U.S. government payrolls report, following March's underwhelming 98,000 figure. Economists on average expect 185,000 jobs were created in April.
"I think there's a wait-and-see attitude with regards to the government employment report after the big miss last month," said Bill Lynch, director of investments at Hinsdale Associates, in Hinsdale, Illinois.
"Based on what the Fed said yesterday in their comments they're pretty confident growth will pick up so I imagine that would include a fairly strong labor number as well."
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 6.43 points, or 0.03 percent, to 20,951.47, the S&P 500 gained 1.39 points, or 0.06 percent, to 2,389.52 and the Nasdaq Composite added 2.79 points, or 0.05 percent, to 6,075.34.
Reaction to the passage in the House of Representatives of a bill to repeal major parts of Obamacare and replace it with a Republican healthcare plan was muted.
"It passes the House, that's fine, now it goes to the Senate, and we know in the Senate it is going to have a very tough time. So even though it has passed the one, it is certainly not a done deal yet. Obamacare is still very much alive and intact," said Ken Polcari, director of the NYSE Floor Division at O’Neil Securities in New York.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.67 percent and touched its highest since August 2015 and MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.09 percent.
Emerging market stocks lost 0.58 percent.
TRADERS EYE FRENCH VOTE, ECB
The euro hit its highest in six months against the U.S. dollar after centrist Emmanuel Macron consolidated his position to win France's presidential race against anti-EU candidate Marine Le Pen.
Beyond Sunday's vote, traders looked at the potential for the European Central Bank to signal further reduction in bond-buying.
The dollar index last fell 0.48 percent, with the euro up 0.93 percent to $1.0983.
The Japanese yen strengthened 0.30 percent versus the greenback to 112.42 per dollar, while sterling was last trading at $1.2923, up 0.47 percent on the day.
Copper prices slid to four-month lows, following their biggest one-day drop in 20 months, on rising inventories and worries over cooling demand. Copper lost 1.02 percent to $5,542.85 a tonne.
Spot gold dropped 0.8 percent to $1,228.44 an ounce. U.S. gold futures fell 1.58 percent to $1,228.80 an ounce.
U.S. Treasury yields rose on the jobs data and bets on the Fed's next move.
Benchmark 10-year notes last fell 12/32 in price to yield 2.3523 percent, from 2.309 percent late on Wednesday.
(Additional reporting by Karen Brettell, Sinead Carew, Chuck Mikolajczak, Julia Simon, Devika Krishna Kumar and Sam Forgione in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)