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[LONDON] Oil prices eased on Monday after rising for seven sessions in a row, as evidence of increasing Opec crude production snuffed out earlier gains made on the back of data that pointed to moderating US output.
Brent crude futures were down 13 US cents on the day at US$48.64 a barrel by 1000 GMT, off a session high of US$49.15. The price rose 5.2 per cent last week in its first weekly gain in six weeks.
US crude futures fell 4 US cents to US$46.00 a barrel.
Drilling activity for new oil production in the United States fell for the first time since January, dropping by two rigs, while US government data showed crude output fell in April for the first time this year. "Sentiment has turned and I think we should be going up (in price). I don't think it's going to last, but the momentum at the moment is with the bulls," PVM Oil Associates strategist Tamas Varga said.
The drop in US rig count and US Energy Information Administration figures showing output fell by 24,000 barrels per day (bpd) on a monthly basis "sent out a short-term bullish message," he said.
The oil price is still down 14 per cent so far this year, as strong global demand has not been enough to absorb rising output from the United States, Nigeria, Libya and other locations, such as the Brazil and the North Sea.
Despite the dip in US drilling, the total rig count was still more than double the 341 rigs in the same week a year ago, according to energy services firm Baker Hughes Inc.
Oil markets remain oversupplied as output from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries hit a 2017 high. "At current output levels, Opec will not succeed in eliminating the inventory overhang completely by year's end,"Commerzbank analysts said in a note.
June Opec production was up by 280,000 bpd at 32.72 million bpd, according to a Reuters survey, despite the group's pledge to hold back output. "To put that in context, that is nearly a quarter of the 1.2 million barrels (per day) Opec agreed to cut," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader, adding the rise came from Nigeria and Libya, which are exempted from the cuts.
Last week, money managers added to their bets against a sustained rise in the oil price. US data showed investors increased short holdings of crude futures and options to close at their highest in a year.