Oil ends lower on signs of fresh China weakness; natural-gas prices jump 16%

Oil futures on Monday fell for a second straight session as global equity markets pulled back on further signs of weakness in China, the world’s second-largest economy.

Prices for natural gas, meanwhile, jumped by roughly 16% to a more than one-week high, as colder weather boosted demand for the heating fuel.

West Texas Intermediate crude for February delivery CLG9, -1.71%  fell by $1.08, or 2.1%, to settle at $50.51 a barrel on Monday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It had fallen Friday but nonetheless notched a weekly rise of about 7.6%, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

March Brent crude LCOH9, -2.12% fell $1.49, or 2.5%, to $58.99 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, after prices last week logged a weekly gain of 6%.

Weak economic data from China raised “concerns of slowing global growth, especially after weak industrial output data from Europe,” said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Price Futures Group, in a note. “It also raises the question of whether or not the Chinese stimulus, that has been announced, will be enough to ward off a major slowdown in the Chinese economy.”

Read: China growth worries flare up again after trade data

“At the same time, it puts more pressure on China to get a trade deal with the U.S.,” he said. “That might be a bit harder after China reported that China’s trade surplus” climbed in 2018.

Data showed weak China imports and exports for December, and China’s trade surplus with the U.S. soared to a fresh record of $323.32 billion in 2018, amid Washington’s trade spat with Beijing.

“Bottom line, China needs a deal if they are interested in stopping the free fall in their economy,” said Flynn. “While some argue they are playing the long game when it comes to this trade war,

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