Oil Slips on Weak China Trade Data

(AP) -

The price of oil fell slightly Thursday, after China reported weak monthly trade data.

Benchmark crude for May delivery fell 20 cents to $103.40 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That followed gains totaling $3.16 a barrel on Monday and Tuesday.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil prices, slipped 52 cents to $107.46 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Oil prices fell as Chinese trade numbers showed that exports contracted unexpectedly in March, shrinking by 6.6 percent from a year earlier, while imports contracted 11.3 percent. Chinese imports of crude oil were also the lowest in five months, totaling 5.54 million barrels in March.

The numbers highlight the gradual slowdown in China’s economic growth, which could result in lower demand for energy. The country’s leaders are struggling to hit a full-year target of 7.5 percent growth this year while reorienting the world’s second-biggest economy away from trade and investment to one based on domestic spending.

In the U.S., the average price for a gallon of gasoline rose 1 cent to $3.61. The price is up 12 cents from a month ago, and is 4 cents higher than at this time last year.

In other energy futures trading in New York:

  • Wholesale gasoline was flat at $3.01 a gallon.
  • Natural gas rose 7 cents to $4.66 per 1,000 cubic feet.
  • Heating oil fell 2 cents at $2.94 a gallon.