Oil futures head lower for a second straight session amid signs of fresh China weakness

Oil futures on Monday were on track to suffer a second straight session decline 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 more than 10% as colder weather boosts demand for the heating fuel, but at least one analysts believes the move is only temporary.

West Texas Intermediate crude for February delivery CLG9, -0.47%  edged down by 29 cents, or 0.6%, to trade at $51.30 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, -0.94% fell 36 cents, or 0.6%, to $60.12 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 daily 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.”

“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

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