SINGAPORE (AFP) -- Oil rose to fresh 2016 highs in Asia Monday as a slowdown in U.S. drilling and increase in Chinese crude refinery processing bolstered hopes a supply glut would ease sooner than expected.
U.S. oilfield services firm Baker Hughes said the number of U.S. drilling rigs fell to its lowest level since October 2009, which is good news for prices as U.S. production is a key contributor to the oversupply.
Chinese crude refineries also processed crude at record rates in April while production dipped to a 14-month low, Bloomberg News reported citing government data released at the weekend.
U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate for delivery in June was up 62 cents, or 1.34 percent, at $46.83 a barrel. Brent North Sea crude for July was up 62 cents, or 1.30 percent, at $48.45.
WTI gained 3.5 percent and Brent advanced over five percent last week, as the International Energy Agency said the glut could ease in the second half of this year and OPEC oil producers said the oversupply “may be easing” on reduced output by its members.
“There is evidence that the market is moving back toward balance,” Michael McCarthy, chief strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney, told Bloomberg News.
“Given the proximity to the top of the broader trading range between $48 and $50 a barrel, it seems less likely that oil can push significantly higher.”
EY oil and gas analyst Sanjeev Gupta said the market will be closely watching the release on Wednesday of U.S. commercial crude inventories, a gauge for demand in the world's top oil consumer.
Singapore-based CMC analyst Margaret Yang said however that a strong dollar is likely to weigh on dollar-priced oil.
Markets worldwide are eyeing meetings next month of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers whose decisions will impact on oil prices.