WASHINGTON: Oil prices fell nearly one percent on Monday in response to growing evidence that U.S. production is rising and as some investors unwound positions ahead of OPEC’s first report on compliance with its deal to cut production. Global benchmark Brent crude futures were down 45 cents at $56.25 a barrel at 0947 GMT and touched a session low of $56.04 a barrel. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 41 cents at $53.45 a barrel and traded as low as $53.86 earlier in the day. “Bulls are liquidating ahead of the release of the monthly OPEC report due out shortly and yet another increase in U.S. rig counts is also playing part in the weakness,” said Tamas Varga, senior analyst at London brokerage PVM Oil Associates.
U.S. oil drillers have added most drilling rigs since 2012 over the past month, bringing the total count to 591 rigs, the most since October 2015, Baker Hughes said in its weekly report. This rise in U.S. activity comes just as some oil producers are reducing output to reverse global oversupply in a bid to prop up prices. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers, including Russia, agreed late last year to cut output by almost 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) during the first half of 2017. The group will publish its first assessment of compliance with the deal on Monday. Sources told Reuters last week compliance according to OPEC calculations was 92 percent in January, while the International Energy Agency said the rate was 90 percent. Kuwait’s oil minister said on Monday that OPEC compliance was 92 percent while that of non-OPEC producers was 50 percent.