The price of oil sunk to around $101 on Monday after a surprise drop in China’s exports suggested demand for crude could weaken.
Benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery dropped $1.46 to $101.12 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, fell 92 cents to $108.08 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
China’s customs data showed over the weekend that exports plunged by an unexpectedly large 18 percent last month. Robust trade is crucial in helping China achieve its official economic growth target of 7.5 percent for this year. However, exports in February last year might have been overstated by exporters inflating sales figures as an excuse to evade currency controls and bring extra money into China.
Tension over Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and Libya’s sustained struggles to normalize its oil production and export activities boosted supply risks and kept prices from falling further.
In the U.S., drivers paid an average of $3.49 for a gallon of gasoline Monday, up 1 cent from Friday. The average is up 22 cents from a month ago, but still 21 cents below the price at this time last year.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
— Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $2.95 per gallon.
— Heating oil dropped 5 cents to $2.97 per gallon.
— Natural gas gained 3 cents to $4.65 per 1,000 cubic feet.