U.S. oil futures set for back-to-back decline amid signs of fresh China weakness

Crude-oil futures on Monday were firmly lower, as global equity markets pulled back on further signs of weakness in China, the world’s second-largest economy.

West Texas Intermediate crude for February delivery CLG9, -0.17%  fell 57 cents, or 1.1%, to trade at $51.02 a barrel on Monday. It had fallen Friday but nonetheless notched a weekly rise of about 7.6%, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

March Brent crude LCOH9, -0.41% meanwhile, fell 54 cents, or 0.9%, to $59.93 a barrel, after prices last week logged a weekly gain of 6% on Friday.

Last week, prices for oil futures rose to their highest levels since early December, which helped to propel them out of a bear market, defined as a 20% decline from a recent peak.

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Data showed weak China imports and exports for December, which underpinned worries of a slowdown in the global growth engine — a potential negative for oil demand.

Moreover, China’s trade surplus with the U.S. soared to a fresh record of $323.32 billion in 2018, amid Washington’s trade spate with Beijing.

“December saw Chinese trading activity decrease significantly as a result of the trade dispute with the U.S. Contrary to expectations, both imports and exports declined year-on-year,” analysts at Commerzbank wrote in a note Monday.

China’s weakness were credited with putting pressure on global stocks, including futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average YMH9, -0.48% DJIA, -0.38%  and the S&P 500 index ESH9, -0.49% SPX, -0.43%

Christopher Alessi contributed to this article

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