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Oil prices stumble on weak China exports hangover

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Oil prices fell on Monday after data showing China's overall exports of goods and services shrank for a fourth straight month, sending shivers through a market already concerned about damage being down to global demand by the Sino-US trade war.

[TOKYO] Oil prices fell on Monday after data showing China's overall exports of goods and services shrank for a fourth straight month, sending shivers through a market already concerned about damage being down to global demand by the Sino-US trade war.

Brent futures were down 33 cents, or 0.5 per cent, at US$64.06 per barrel by 0055 GMT, after gaining about 3 per cent last week, boosted by news that Opec and allies would deepen output cuts.

West Texas Intermediate oil futures were down 37 cents, or 0.6 per cent to US$58.85 a barrel, having risen about 7 per cent last week on prospects for lower production from 'Opec+', the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and associated producers including Russia.

Monday's sudden chill came after customs data released on Sunday showed exports from the world's second-biggest economy in November fell 1.1 per cent from a year earlier - a sharp reversal from expectations for a 1 per cent increase in a Reuters poll of analysts.

The weak start to the week came despite data showing China's crude imports jumped a record, revealing just how deep jitters are embedded in the market over the trade US-China trade row that has stymied global growth and oil demand.

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The sagging export data is "a casualty again of the protracted trade war," said Stephen Innes chief Asia market strategist at AxiTrader.

Washington and Beijing have been trying to agree a trade deal that will end tit-for-tat tariffs, but talks have dragged on for months as they wrangle over key details.

Monday's price drops put an end to a strong run in previous sessions fuelled by hopes for the Opec+ production curb deal.

On Friday, those producers agreed to deepen their output cuts from 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) to 1.7 million bpd, representing about 1.7 per cent of global production.

Still, US production has surged since the Opec+ cuts were first introduced in 2017 in an attempt to drain a supply glut that had long weighed on prices. Output there has risen even as the drill count has fallen, reflecting more efficient well extraction.

Energy services firm Baker Hughes said in its closely watched weekly drilling report on Friday that the US drill count fell in the week to Dec 6 - a seventh week of decline.

Drilling companies cut five oil rigs, leaving a total of 661, the lowest since April 2017.

REUTERS

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