Singapore: Oil prices fell by almost 1 per cent on Monday, with Brent crude slipping below $60 per barrel, after Chinese data showed weakening imports and exports in the worldâs biggest trading nation and second-largest crude oil consumer.
International Brent crude oil futures were at $59.91 per barrel at 0403 GMT, down 57 cents, or 0.9 per cent from their last close.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 47 cents, or 0.9 per cent, at $51.12 a barrel.
Chinaâs December overall exports fell by 4.4 percent from a year earlier, the biggest monthly drop in two years, official data showed on Monday, pointing to further weakening in the worldâs second-largest economy. Imports last month also contracted, falling 7.6 per cent, the biggest decline since July 2016.
âCrude futures were back in the red as trading began for a fresh week in Asia, in tandem with most of the regionâs stock markets ... (as) China early Monday reported $351.76 billion trade surplus in dollar terms for 2018, the lowest since
2013,â said energy consultant Vandana Hari of Vanda Insights in a note on Monday.
The weak trade figures confirm a raft of indicators that have been pointing to an economic slowdown since the second half of 2018.
âProducer price inflation has decelerated for six consecutive months, adding to other signs of cooling industrial activity (in China) amid weakening global demand,â rating agency Moodyâs said in a note.
Traders said the data pulled down crude oil futures and Asian stock markets alike, which had both posted modest gains earlier on Monday.
Economic research firm TS Lombard said oil prices were capped as âthe world economy is now slowing ... limiting the scope for positive surprises in oil demand and hampering inventory reduction.â
Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Denmarkâs Saxo Bank, said âthe deterioration seen recently in forward-looking economic data from the US to Europe and Chinaâ meant that the upside for crude oil futures was likely limited to $64 per barrel for Brent and for $55 for WTI.
Despite the weak Chinese trade data, the countryâs oil imports remained sky-high in December at 10.31 million barrels per day (bpd), holding above the 10 million bpd mark for the second month in a row, on stockbuilding by small independent refiners who were trying to use up annual quotas.
Amid this strong demand from the worldâs biggest oil importer, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and some non-OPEC allies, including Russia, have been cutting supply since late 2018, providing crude prices with some support.
In the United States, drillers cut four oil rigs in the week to Jan. 11, bringing the total count down to 873, energy services firm Baker Hughes said in a weekly report on Friday.