Oil prices down in Asian trade

Oil prices fell in Asia Tuesday as dealers focused on an upcoming US energy report for clues about production and demand in the world's top crude consumer amid abundant global supplies.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for September delivery fell 31 cents to $44.65 while Brent crude for September eased 21 cents to $50.20 in afternoon trade.

The US Energy Information Administration will on Wednesday release the latest US stockpiles report for the week to August 7.

Analysts said dealers will focus on production after it rose by 52,000 barrels in the previous week, slightly offsetting a 4.4 million barrel drop in overall crude reserves that indicated healthy demand.

London-based research house Capital Economics said the main drivers pressuring oil prices were "signs of a recovery in US production and buoyant OPEC supply".

Dealers predict that a slowdown in US output -- and increased demand during the summer driving season -- could whittle down a huge global glut. This has been a key reason for the collapse in prices from a peak of around $120 in June last year.

The decision by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to maintain its output level at around 30 million barrels a day despite sagging demand is also seen as a reason for the abundant supplies.

The move is seen as an attempt by the cartel's kingpin Saudi Arabia to defend its market share as it fends off competition from US shale oil.

That policy may be working, with the latest drop in prices prompting "more Western oil companies to shelve investment plans, which will feed back into slower growth in non-OPEC production", Capital Economics said.

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