Oil prices fell about 1 per cent on Monday after data from China showed exports fell by the highest amount in two years last month and imports also fell.  AP photo.

Oil prices fall about 1 per cent Monday

On Monday, data showing falling Chinese imports and exports raised concerns about a global economic slowdown, pressuring oil prices to fall over one per cent in trading.

By 2:05 p.m., EST, benchmark Brent futures fell 66 cents to $59.82, up from a session low of $59.27/barrel.  US West Texas Intermediate futures were down 35 cents to $51.24/barrel.  Earlier in the day, US WTI dropped to $50.43/barrel.

The declines were spurred by data from China showing exports had fallen by the most in two years last month and imports had also declined.

“Oil prices are getting weighted down by the prospects of weaker economic growth in China,” Reuters reports Stephen Innes of futures brokerage Oanda said in a report.

“This data drives home just how negative of an impact trade war is having on the Chinese and perhaps global economy.”

However, according to Reuters, China’s crude imports in December were up nearly 30 per cent over the same time in 2017, showing demand in China for oil has not yet weakened.

And Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister, Khalid al-Falih, also struck an optimistic tone when he said on Monday that he is not worried about a global slowdown crimping oil demand at this time.

“The global economy is strong enough, I’m not too concerned. If a slowdown happens, it will be mild, shallow and short,” he said while speaking to reporters in Abu Dhabi.

Since dropping to one-and-a-half year lows in December, crude futures have rallied.

“There’s a close proximity to $50 (for WTI),” Bob Yawger, director of futures at Mizuho told Reuters. “There’s a significant amount of new length in the market in crude oil and interest in keeping the market above that number.”

OPEC officials appear more confident that oil prices will be supported by the latest supply cut agreement between the cartel and its allies, including Russia.  The OPEC+ agreement calls for producers to cut a total of 1.2 million barrels per day.

On Sunday, Al-Falih said the oil market was “on the right track”.  He added there was no need for OPEC to meet before its scheduled April meeting.