Oil fields
Oil fieldsReuters File

Oil fell on Monday over signs that U.S. shale drillers have adapted to lower prices and on renewed signs of economic weakness in Asia.

International Brent crude oil futures were trading at $46.38 per barrel at 0243 GMT (10:43 p.m. EDT), down 38 cents from their last settlement. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down 44 cents at $41.97 a barrel.

Traders said the lower prices were a result of Asian refiners beginning to cut crude orders in an adjustment to a sharp rise in crude prices since January, and also to the region's economic slowdown.

"Crude imports to Asia over the last few months are falling (but) volumes were so high over the last year thanks to the rush to take advantage of the low oil prices, that it was rather natural that we would see a slowdown sooner than later," said Ralph Leszczynski, head of research at ship broker Banchero Costa.

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.

Compared with a year earlier, core orders, which exclude those of ships and electricity, decreased 11.7 percent in May, versus expectations of a 8.7 percent decline.

In China, consumer inflation last month held below the official target of around 3 percent for this year, data released on Sunday showed, indicating persistently weak domestic demand.

Additionally, there is mounting evidence that U.S. oil producers can live with crude prices of $45 or higher, as oil drillers added rigs for the fifth week in six, U.S. oil bankruptcies became sparse in June, and bullish U.S. oil bets dropped to near four-month lows.

Saudi Arabia's energy minister Khalid al-Falih said on Sunday the oil market was becoming more balanced in terms of supply and demand and, as a result, prices were stabilizing.