OIL PRICE: ABOVE $55 STILL
REUTERS, BLOOMBERG - Crude oil slid lower on Monday on signs that the United States is continuing to add output, largely counteracting strong economic growth in China and OPEC efforts to cut production.
Benchmark Brent crude futures were down 53 cents at $55.36 at 0836 GMT (4:36 a.m. ET). On Thursday, before major markets closed for a holiday break, they settled up 3 cents at $55.89 a barrel.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 46 cents at $52.72 a barrel, after rising 7 cents to $53.18 on Thursday.
Both benchmarks had risen last week for a third consecutive week, with Brent adding 1.2 percent over the four days before the Good Friday holiday and WTI up 1.8 percent.
While trading was subdued, the focus was on indications that shale oil output in the United States was pressing higher.
"All the signs of an ever-growing bull market are starting to fade away, (with) Libya and geo-political tensions easing, but also because the Texans are back and they are pumping like there's no tomorrow," said Matt Stanley, a fuel broker at Freight Investor Services (FIS) in Dubai. "If I were OPEC, I'd be pretty worried."
Although the failure of a ballistic missile launch in North Korea brought some respite, markets were braced for further tensions in the region.
In Libya, fighting between rival factions has cut oil output, but state oil company NOC was able to reopen at least one field and was pushing to reopen another.
U.S. drillers last week added rigs for a 13th straight week, a sign output gains there will continue.
Energy services firm Baker Hughes said on Thursday drillers added 11 oil rigs in the week to April 13, bringing the count up to 683, highest in about two years.
Increasing U.S. output is undermining attempts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other major oil producers to curb output and sustain a rally in prices in a market that has been oversupplied since mid-2014.
U.S. crude oil production has climbed to 9.24 million barrels per day (bpd), according to the latest Energy Information Administration data, making it the world's third-largest producer after Russia and Saudi Arabia.
The increasing production largely counteracted figures showing first quarter economic growth of 6.9 percent in China. Forecast-beating March investment, retail sales and exports all suggested China's economy, the world's second-largest oil consumer, may carry solid momentum into spring.
Additionally, Iran added fuel to hopes that OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers could extend their output cuts beyond the initial six-month agreement. Any cut extension could help underpin prices.
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PLATTS - National Australia Bank announced Thursday it will no longer provide financing for new thermal coal projects.
Petrobras and ExxonMobil signed a memorandum of understanding regarding a strategic alliance to jointly identify and evaluate potential business opportunities.
ExxonMobil Development Africa B.V. has acquired a 25 percent indirect interest in Mozambique’s gas-rich Area 4 block from Eni and assume responsibility for midstream operations.
U.S. Rig Count is down 1 rig from last week to 930, with oil rigs down 4 to 747, gas rigs up 3 to 183, and miscellaneous rigs unchanged. Canada Rig Count is up 19 rigs from last week to 238, with oil rigs up 22 to 134 and gas rigs down 3 to 104.