Brent Oil Steady Just Below $58 after Weak Chinese Trade Data

Oil prices steadied on Monday as falling U.S. oil rig counts and signs of strong U.S. economic growth were balanced by a slump in Chinese imports, pointing to lower fuel demand in the world biggest energy consumer.  Global benchmark Brent crude oil for March was up 30 cents at $58.10 a barrel by 0420 GMT after rising as high as $59.06 earlier in the session. U.S. crude was up 60 cents at $52.29 a barrel, having hit a session high of $53.40.

Brent rose more than 9 percent last week, its biggest weekly rise since February 2011. The North Sea oil futures contract has climbed more than 18 percent in the past two weeks, its strongest showing since 1998. The move ended a six-month slide that saw oil prices lose more than half their value.  The number of rigs drilling for oil in the United States fell by 83 this week to 1,140 – the lowest since December 2011 – a survey showed on Friday, a clear sign of the pressure that tumbling crude prices have put on oil producers.

Stronger-than-expected growth in U.S. jobs in January also helped support oil, as non-farm payrolls increased 257,000, outstripping Wall Street forecasts.  But data showed further economic weakness in China, the world’s No. 2 oil consumer, helping cap oil gains.


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