Oil Prices Head Lower on Increased U.S. Drilling Activity, Russian Hints

Investing.com - Oil prices traded lower on Monday after logging their longest stretch of weekly gains in nearly three years, with signs of profit-taking emerging on reports that Russia wants to end the current deal on output restraint in June.

New York-traded West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 57 cents, or 0.9%, at $63.32 a barrel by 8:42 AM ET (12:42 GMT), pulling back from last week’s five-month high of $64.79.

Meanwhile, Brent crude futures, the benchmark for oil prices outside the U.S., traded down 59 cents, or 0.8%, to $70.96.

Data from Baker Hughes showed on Friday that the weekly rig count rose by two units last week after the previous week's 15-rig climb. The longer oil prices stay at their current elevated levels, the likelier it is that U.S. shale producers will increase output, offsetting OPEC-led efforts to reduce supply.

U.S. production is running at record highs, with the latest data from the Energy Information Administration showing output of 12.2 million barrels a day. But unscheduled reductions in supply from Iran and Venezuela have largely offset that in recent weeks, and three other oil-exporting nations - Libya, Algeria and Sudan - are experiencing various degrees of political uncertainty due to government transitions.

Reuters reported Russian sources last week as saying that they were reluctant to extend the output cuts agreement against that backdrop, wary of over-tightening the market. The International Energy Agency said in its monthly report last week that it expects the global market to flip into deficit in the current quarter, as the global economy comes out of its soft patch.

Such forecasts have prompted bulls to raise their bets on crude prices to the highest level in six months, according to CFTC data released on Friday.

“Even with bulls expected to continue with their push for $65 U.S. crude and $73 Brent this week, the more discerning longs in the space will watch for signs of Russian reluctance to stay with OPEC production cuts beyond June - an outcome that could seriously weigh on the oil rally,” Investing.com senior commodity analyst Barani Krishnan warned.

In other energy trading, gasoline futures fell 1.4% to $2.0083 a gallon by 8:45 AM ET (12:45 GMT), while heating oil lost 1.0% to $2.0511 a gallon.

Lastly, natural gas futures traded down 1.4% to $2.622 per million British thermal unit.