* Speculators cut long positions in U.S. crude
* OPEC supplies also remain high despite cuts
* But AB Bernstein says OPEC cuts are about to bite
By Henning Gloystein
SINGAPORE, March 20 Oil prices fell on Monday as
rising U.S. drilling activity and steady supplies from OPEC
countries despite touted production cuts pressured
Prices for front-month Brent crude futures, the
international benchmark for oil, were 20 cents below their last
settlement at 0025 GMT, at $51.56 per barrel.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down
28 cents at $48.50 a barrel.
Traders said that prices were under pressure due to rising
U.S. drilling activity and ongoing high supplies by the
Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) despite
its pledge to cut output by almost 1.8 million barrels per day
(bpd) together with some other producers like Russia.
"Crude oil has attempted to break out of the trading range
that formed last year ... However, this uptrend has stalled,"
futures brokerage CMC Markets said in a note on Monday. "Now
there is good, strong momentum to the downside."
U.S. drillers added 14 oil rigs in the week to March 17,
bringing the total count up to 631, the most since September
2015, energy services firm Baker Hughes Inc said on
Friday, extending a recovery that is expected to boost shale
production by the most in six-months in April.
As a result, U.S. oil output has risen to over 9.1 million
bpd from below 8.5 million bpd in June last year. C-OUT-T-EIA
Reacting to the ongoing glut in markets, financial oil
traders cut their net long U.S. crude futures and options
positions in the week to March 14, the third consecutive cut,
the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) said on
Defying rising sentiment that oil markets remain
oversupplied, some analysts say markets will tighten soon,
arguing that the OPEC-led cuts will only start to bite from
April, just as demand picks up as refineries return from current
"The cuts in OPEC production from the start of 2017 should
start to show up between mid-March (now) and mid-April. Over the
coming weeks we expect a sharp reduction in imports and increase
in refining runs which should lead to impressive crude inventory
draws," analysts at AB Bernstein said on Monday in a note to
"The combination of falling imports and stronger crude runs
should lead to substantial inventory cuts over the coming
months," they said.
(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Joseph Radford)