Oil steady near nine-week highs on fall in U.S. drilling activity

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SEOUL (Reuters) – Oil prices held near nine-week highs on Monday, buoyed by robust U.S. jobs data last week and a slight fall in U.S. drilling, although rising output from OPEC capped gains.

Global benchmark Brent crude futures LCOc1 were up 8 cents, or 0.15 percent, at $52.50 a barrel at 0059 GMT.

U.S. crude futures CLc1 were up 7 cents, or 0.14 percent at $49.65 per barrel.

Prices for both benchmarks have been on the rise, hovering near their highest since late May, when oil producers led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) rolled over a deal to reduce output by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) until the end of next March.

“Crude oil prices rose strongly as investors viewed (U.S. jobs) data as a positive sign for oil demand in the United States … A small fall in the number of drill rigs operating in the U.S. also supported prices,” ANZ bank said in a note.

U.S. employers added an above-forecast 209,000 workers in July and raised wages, the U.S. Labor Department reported on Friday.

U.S. drillers cut one oil rig in the week to Aug. 4, bringing the total count down to 765, energy services firm Baker Hughes (BHGE.N) said on Friday. RIG-OL-USA-BHI

Although the U.S. rig count fell last week, oil production in the United States hit 9.43 million bpd, the highest level since August 2015. C-OUT-T-EIA

Meanwhile, OPEC’s crude oil exports in July rose to a record high of 26.11 million bpd, most of which came from Nigeria, according to a report by Thomson Reuters Oil Research last week.

Officials from a joint OPEC and non-OPEC technical committee are set to meet in Abu Dhabi on Monday and on Tuesday to discuss ways to boost compliance with their supply reduction agreement.

Reporting by Jane Chung; Editing by Joseph Radford

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