(Adds estimates, details on production and forecast)
By Anirban Paul
May 2 (Reuters) - U.S. oil and gas producer Apache Corp posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit on Wednesday, as it benefited from higher U.S. light crude prices.
Oil prices have recovered from lows hit in 2016, currently trading around $70 per barrel. This helped selling prices at the Houston, Texas-based company to rise to $64.27 per barrel from $51.20 last year.
Apache said total production fell 8.5 percent to 440,336 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d) compared to a year earlier, but the figure beat analysts' estimates of 430,940 boe/d according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Production was largely helped by an increase in the Permian Basin, the largest U.S. oilfield, which rose 24 percent compared with a year-ago and was 41.6 percent of total production.
The company specifically noted that the Permian Basin will be a key operation in 2018.
Apache also raised its full-year U.S. output forecast to 250,000-258,000 boe/d from a previous range of 245,000-255,000 boe/d, driven mostly by more operating wells in the first quarter.
Net income attributable to Apache's common shareholders fell to $145 million, or 38 cents per share, in the quarter ended March 31, from $213 million, or 56 cents per share, a year earlier. [bit.ly/2KuYKRO ]
Excluding items, the company earned 32 cents share, higher than analysts' average expectation of 30 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Rival Marathon Oil Corp beat profit estimates on Wednesday on higher production and realized prices for oil. (Reporting by Anirban Paul in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur, Bernard Orr)