[SINGAPORE] Oil prices held steady in early Asian trade on Monday as a resurgence in US drilling activity seen earlier this month seemed to fizzle out, while data showed Saudi Arabian exports fell to the lowest in five months despite record output.
US energy firms cut seven oil rigs last week, Baker Hughes Inc said late on Friday in its closely watched report. US crude futures, also known as West Texas Intermediate (WTI), briefly turned higher after the report.
US crude was down 5 cents at US$50.84 by 0056 GMT, after falling more than 3 per cent last week and more than 14 per cent in July. The August contract expires on Tuesday.
Schlumberger NV said it is betting on an uptick in demand in coming quarters for oilfield services in North America, a market that has been battered by a steep drop in oil prices.
Money managers cut their net long US crude futures and options positions in the week to July 14, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission said on Friday.
Brent September crude was 10 cents lower at US$56.99 a barrel. The benchmark had fallen nearly 3 percent last week and more than 10 per cent for the month.
Saudi Arabia's crude oil exports fell in May to their lowest since December, with official data showing daily shipments stood at 6.935 million barrels a day (bpd) compared to 7.737 million bpd in April.
The decline came despite record high output of over 10 million bpd as the Kingdom - traditionally the world's biggest exporter of crude - transforms into one of the largest oil refining centres.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said he will meet Opec Secretary-General Abdullah al-Badri in Moscow on July 30 to discuss oil markets and the Iran situation.
Britain's North Sea Buzzard oilfield began ramping up on Friday after an outage on Wednesday. The outage was supportive to Brent as oil from the field contributes to the calculation of the futures price.