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Oil prices ease on weak Chinese trade data

10 March 2014, 06:51

Singapore - Oil prices eased in Asian trade on Monday as weak Chinese trade data stoked concerns over demand in the world's top energy consumer, analysts said.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for April delivery, was down 9 cents at $102.49 in mid-morning trade. Brent North Sea crude for April was down 41c at $108.59.

Asian markets are digesting Chinese official figures released Saturday that showed the world's second biggest economy recorded an unexpected $22.98bn trade deficit in February.

The figure compared with a surplus of $14.8bn in the same month last year, and a median forecast of an $11.9bn surplus in a poll of 13 economists by Dow Jones Newswires.

"Any time there are concerns about China's growth and the numbers point that way, that will obviously put downward pressure on oil prices, especially Brent prices," David Lennox, resource analyst at Fat Prophets in Sydney, told AFP.

The Chinese government said the weak trade figures were a result of "sharp fluctuations in the monthly growth rate as well as the monthly deficit" during the country's holiday season.

Investors continue to keep a close watch on the geopolitical crisis in Ukraine, as pro-Russian activists clashed with pro-Kiev supporters in mass rallies across the former Soviet state Sunday.

Ukraine is in danger of breaking apart as its autonomous Crimean region inches closer towards joining Russia, in a sharp escalation of the worst East-West security crisis since the Cold War.

Fears of an immediate armed conflict due to Russia's incursion into the Crimean peninsula have receded but oil prices remain supported over concerns US and European sanctions on Moscow could wreak turmoil in markets.

Russia is a crucial global energy producer and exporter of natural gas to Western Europe, and more than 70% of its gas and oil exports to Europe pass through Ukraine.



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