SINGAPORE, July 17 (Reuters) - Oil prices firmed on Monday, supported by a slowdown in new rigs looking for crude and a perception of strong demand.
Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $49.08 per barrel at 0126 GMT, up 17 cents, or 0.35 percent, from their last close.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $46.70 per barrel, up 16 cents, or 0.34 percent.
Both crudes extended gains from a strong previous week.
Traders and analysts said the rising prices were a result of strong demand as well as signs that a relentless climb in U.S. oil production was slowing down.
“Last week’s strong draw on U.S. oil inventories was supported by comments from the IEA that demand is growing stronger than they had initially estimated ... The relentless climb in drill rigs operating in the U.S. also subsided,” ANZ bank said on Monday.
U.S. drillers added two oil rigs in the week to July 14, bringing the total count up to 765, energy services firm Baker Hughes said on Friday. RIG-OL-USA-BHI
While that is the highest level since April 2015, the rate of those additions has slowed. Rig additions over the past four weeks averaged five, the lowest since November 2016.
“Given the usual time lag between price signal and drilling decision, the coming month, which also features the E&P (exploration and production) earning season, will be key,” said U.S. bank Goldman Sachs. (Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Joseph Radford)