BEIJING, April 7 (Reuters) – China’s largest oil and gas producer, PetroChina, said on Friday it expected a first-quarter profit of 5-6 billion yuan ($724.8-$869.8 million), down slightly from the preceding quarter, but a turnaround from a huge loss a year earlier.

The forecast is slightly lower than the 6.2 billion yuan profit reported in the fourth quarter.

However, it would be a big improvement from the year-ago loss of 13.8 billion yuan, the company’s first-ever, due to a recovery in crude prices and cost cutting measures, the company said.

Earnings in the first three months of 2016 were hit by weak crude oil , which sank to around $27 per barrel, the lowest in years, in mid-January 2016 amid concerns about a global glut.

Prices have recovered to around $56 per tonne currently on hopes that cuts by OPEC and other producers will help erode the oversupply.

(Reporting by Josephine Mason and Min Zhang; Editing by Sunil Nair)

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