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US oil settles down 1.43 pct as Canada output and US rig count weigh

Oil prices fell on Monday, hitting two-month lows, pressured by rising Canadian supplies, a higher U.S. oil rig count, and cuts in bullish hedge fund bets on crude.

Hundreds of thousands of new barrels of crude have begun arriving in Alberta's oil sands region, crowding pipelines as producers recover from wildfires that crippled output two months ago.

The rising Canadian output pressured prices even though traders said data from market intelligence firm Genscape showed a drawdown of 488,625 barrels at the Cushing, Oklahoma delivery hub for U.S. crude futures during the week to July 8.

Also pressuring crude prices, data on Friday showed the U.S. oil rig count rose last week for the fifth time in six weeks. U.S. oil company bankruptcy filings in June hit their lowest for this year, data showed. Both factors suggested drillers were cranking out more crude.

Other data from Friday showed hedge funds cut bullish bets on U.S. crude to the lowest in four months.

Brent crude traded at $46.21 per barrel by 2:41 p.m. ET, down 4 cents after sliding to a session low of $45.90, the lowest since May 11.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude settled down 1.43 percent, or 65 cents, at $44.76 per barrel, the lowest settle since May 10. During the session, WTI hit a two-month low of $44.53.

"We have shifted to a bearish trading stance and off of a neutral posture that we had maintained for approximately a month following transition from a bullish view in early June," said Jim Ritterbusch of Chicago-based oil markets consultancy Ritterbusch & Associates.

"We have suggested the likelihood of a price downdraft in WTI and Brent to about $37 and $38 areas, respectively."

Oil prices were down most of the day since trading began in Asia on Monday as refiners in that region cut back on crude orders due to worries of an economic slowdown.

Iran set the official selling price of its light grade for Asia at 45 cents above the Oman/Dubai average for August, which is down 40 cents on the month.

Crude futures got a reprieve from session lows after Wall Street's S&P 500 index hit a record high, reacting to a bullish U.S. monthly jobs report from Friday that boosted confidence in the economy.

Crude also pared losses on a report that Nigeria's Trans-Niger pipeline, used for exporting Bonny light crude, had been shut for unknown reasons.

An employee stands on the deck of a pilot boat in view of the Ocean Princess oil platform, operated by Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc., in the Port of Cromarty Firth in Cromarty, U.K.
Mathew Lloyd | Bloomberg | Getty Images
An employee stands on the deck of a pilot boat in view of the Ocean Princess oil platform, operated by Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc., in the Port of Cromarty Firth in Cromarty, U.K.

Goldman Sachs said that it expected "WTI oil to remain in a range of $45-50 per barrel over the next 12 months".

Saudi Arabia's energy minister Khalid al-Falih said on Sunday that oil markets were becoming more balanced and, as a result, prices were stabilizing.

However, signs of economic slowdown weighed. In Japan, core machinery orders unexpectedly fell 1.4 percent in May from the previous month, down for a second straight month, government data showed on Monday.

Elsewhere, China's economic growth likely cooled to a fresh seven-year low of 6.6 percent in the second quarter, according to a Reuters poll of 61 economists, its weakest in seven years.

Despite this, vehicle sales climbed 14.6 percent to 2.1 million units in June compared with last year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.