Crude-oil futures settled slightly lower Monday as traders reacted to weekend data showing sluggish economic growth in China.
Light, sweet crude for July delivery settled lower by 26 cents, or 0.27%, at $95.77 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange recently traded 88 cents lower at $103.68 a barrel.
May oil imports declined 6% on-year in China, the world's second-largest oil consumer, according to preliminary data released by the Chinese customs department. Its total exports also grew at the weakest pace in nearly a year as exports to Europe and the U.S. declined.
China is the world's second-biggest oil consumer after the U.S., and its economic data is closely watched in the energy market. The weak indicators slowed momentum for oil futures, which had risen sharply on Friday following a strong monthly U.S. jobs report.
"It seems that all that enthusiasm over the jobs data is wearing out a little bit," said Phil Flynn, analyst at Price Futures Group.
Traders also are awaiting monthly data from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the Energy Information Administration Tuesday, followed by the International Energy Agency's oil market report on Wednesday. Crude-oil inventories in the U.S. fell 6.3 million barrels, more than analysts expected, in last week's EIA data.
"The market is going to have to catch its breath," said Jeffrey Grossman, president of BRG Brokerage.
Supply concerns have begun to creep back into the market. Traders have been watching for the impact of cross-border tensions between Sudan and landlocked South Sudan, which could limit oil exports. Civil unrest in Libya also has hurt production there.
Nymex July reformulated gasoline blendstock was down for the first time in six days, after it rose 4.2% last week to settle at its highest level since May 20. Front-month July reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, settled 2.34 cents lower at $2.8481 a gallon. July ULSD heating oil settled 93 cents lower at $2.8838 a gallon.
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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