Oil prices fall ahead of US holiday after 8 days of gains

An oil pumpjack operates near Williston, North Dakota.
Andrew Cullen | Reuters

Oil prices retreated in early Asian trade on Tuesday, halting a run of eight straight days of gains on signs that a relentless rise in U.S. crude production is running out of steam.

Brent crude futures fell 27 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $49.41 per barrel by 0354 GMT.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were trading down 24 cents, or 0.5 percent, at $46.83 a barrel.

Trader breaks down a selling opportunity in crude oil
Trader breaks down a selling opportunity in crude oil

The falls came after both benchmarks recovered around 12 percent from their recent lows on June 21.

Many traders closed positions ahead of the U.S. Independence Day holiday on July 4, while Brent also faced technical resistance as it approached $50 per barrel, traders said.

Despite this, market sentiment has shifted somewhat.

Late May and most of June were overwhelmingly bearish as U.S. output rose and doubts grew over the ability of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to hold back enough production to tighten the market.

But sentiment began to shift towards the end of June, when U.S. data showed a dip in American oil output and a slight fall in drilling for new production.

"We see a recovery for oil prices in H2 2017 from current levels, with OPEC production cuts, a slowdown in global supply growth and seasonally firming demand driving up prices," BMI Research said, although it added that "large-volume supply additions will keep price growth flat y-o-y in 2018."

CNBC Oil Survey: 47% see more pain ahead for crude
CNBC Oil Survey: 47% see more pain ahead for crude

BMI said it expected Brent to average $54 per barrel in the second half of this year, and to average $55 a barrel in 2018.

It expects WTI to average $51 in the second have of 2017 and to average $52 next year.

ANZ bank said on Tuesday that the dips in U.S. production and drilling were "a small but significant shift in the dynamics in the oil market" and that this would take some pressure off OPEC's struggling efforts to rein in oversupply.

OPEC is leading a bid to tighten oil markets by pledging to hold back around 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in output between January this year and March 2018.

Its efforts have been undermined by rising output from Libya and Nigeria, who are exempt from the cuts, which helped push the group's June output to a 2017 high of 32.57 million bpd, about 820,000 bpd above its supply target.