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[TOKYO] Crude prices edged down in early Asian trade on Monday to hold near two-month lows on seasonally weak consumption, despite comments from the Saudi Arabian oil minister that the oil market was becoming more balanced.
London Brent crude for September delivery was down 22 US cents at US$46.54 a barrel by 2247 GMT on Sunday. It settled up 36 US cents on Friday after the US economy posted the largest job gains in eight months in June and on worries about fresh militant attacks on Nigerian oil infrastructure.
NYMEX crude for August delivery was down 27 US cents at US$45.14 a barrel, after closing up 27 US cents on Friday.
Saudi Arabia's energy minister Khalid al-Falih said on Sunday the oil market was becoming more balanced and prices were stabilising, echoing earlier comments made on Monday.
Oversupply concerns, however, resurfaced on Friday with data showing the US oil rig count rose by 10 as drillers added rigs for a fifth week in six as analysts predict production will start to edge up early next year.
Renewed fighting erupted in South Sudan's capital on Sunday and forces loyal to Vice President Riek Machar said his residence was attacked by the president's troops, raising fears of a slide back into full-blown conflict in the five-year-old nation.
Chinese consumer inflation last month held below the official target of around 3 per cent for this year, data released on Sunday showed, indicating persistently weak domestic demand.
Oil's big rebound in the first half of the year was a squandered opportunity for most hedge funds with positions in crude, and a surge in volatility is likely to make it harder for them to call the market in the second half.
Money managers cut their net long US crude futures and options positions to the smallest levels since March in the week to July 5, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) said on Friday.