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Crude oil prices looking up as US drops in drilling activity

Serious signs of rising crude oil prices emerged Monday against the background of a marginal drop in the number of U.S. rigs drilling for more production and as the U.S. economy continued to create jobs, which industry hopes will drive higher fuel demand. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were at $62.10 a barrel at 0407 GMT, up 6 cents, or 0.1 percent. Brent crude futures LCOc1 were at $65.58 per barrel, up 9 cents, or 0.1 percent, from their previous close. “A falling rig count and the strong employment data may have helped support prices,” said William O’Loughlin, investment analyst at Rivkin Securities.

The U.S. economy added the biggest number of jobs in more than 1-1/2 years in February, with non-farm payrolls jumping by 313,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said on Friday. In oil markets, U.S. energy companies last week cut oil rigs for the first time in almost two months RIG-OL-USA-BHI, with drillers cutting back four rigs, to 796, Baker Hughes (GE.N) energy services firm said on Friday.

However, despite the lower rig count, which is an early indicator of future output, activity remains much higher than a year ago when, when just 617 rigs were active, and most analysts expect U.S. crude oil production C-OUT-T-EIA, which has already risen by over a fifth since mid-2016, to 10.37 million barrels per day (bpd), to rise further.