Oil Retreats toward $78 on Mixed Economic Data

NYMEX crude oil futures lost ground on Monday as the dollar packed a punch against a basket of international currencies and investors turned risk averse amid mixed economic data on the domestic front.

After crossing an $80-threshold last week, the price of light, sweet crude oil for April delivery drew back into negative territory to settle down to $78.70 a barrel today. Over the past month, oil prices have climbed more than 9%.

Additionally, gasoline futures, booking a slight loss Monday, remained above a $2-threshold for the April front-month contract.

On the opposite side of the energy coin, natural gas spot prices at the Henry Hub for April delivery tumbled at the close of the energy commodity's session, retreating to $4.68 Mcf.

In the broader financial market, investors weighed conflicting government data today, but ultimately channeled commercial buying into other commodities outside of the oil complex in addition to seeking safe haven in the U.S. currency.

Specifically, U.S. manufacturing data grew at a slower-than-expected pace in February, outweighing a rise in consumer spending for the month of January.

Traders also reacted to weakened factory growth in China, despite accelerated factory activity across Asia, and encouraging growth rates in Europe amid contraction in other euro zone countries, Reuters reported.

Helping to spur oil prices earlier on with a potential threat to Europe's energy supplies, an Iranian official also touted the accuracy of the Middle Eastern country's missiles, which could "target any adversary," Reuters quoted the official as saying.