Oil prices fell by nearly 1% on Monday, with Brent crude slipping below $60 a barrel, after Chinese data showed weakening imports and exports in the world's biggest trading nation and second-largest crude oil consumer.
The latest data on Chinese imports and exports, below expectations, dropped the Dow Jones 230 points in premarkets today.
International Brent crude oil futures were at $59.91 a barrel at 4.03am GMT, down 57c, or 0.9% from their last close.
On Friday, crude oil prices weakened on concerns over an economic slowdown in China. China's crude imports in December surged almost 30 percent from a year earlier, Reuters calculations of customs data showed.
Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Denmark's Saxo Bank, said "the deterioration seen recently in forward-looking economic data from the United States to Europe and China" meant that the upside for crude oil futures was likely limited to $64 a barrel for Brent and for $55 for WTI.
"Producer price inflation has decelerated for six consecutive months, adding to other signs of cooling industrial activity (in China) amid weakening global demand", rating agency Moody's said in a note.
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"The combination of geopolitical risk, global growth fears, China's economy and the dollar's trajectory remain themes seen influencing oil prices".
"However, Tuesday's slight oil price increases came after crude futures fell by more than 2 percent the previous session, dragged down by weak Chinese trade data which pointed to a global economic slowdown".
Economic research firm TS Lombard said oil "prices are likely to stabilise around current levels and quite possibly drift upwards", pointing to supply cuts from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and some non-OPEC allies, including Russian Federation, as a fundamental driver. The move is created to prevent market oversupply and boost oil price. This could be balancing today's impact on crude price from China and slowdown fears.
"The global economy is strong enough, I'm not too concerned. If a slowdown happens, it will be mild, shallow and short".
Al-Falih is confident in the current performance of the oil market and does not believe OPEC should reconvene early to address the issue.
Prices fell as investors priced-in the possibility of lower demand for crude oil due to the weakening economy. This may depend on China's economic performance later this year and the final outcome of US-China trade talks.
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