Oil below $102 after China, Japan data

The price of oil fell below $102 on Monday after a surprise drop in China's exports and weaker economic growth in Japan suggested demand for crude could weaken.

Benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery was down $1.18 to $101.40 per barrel at 0810 GMT in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Friday, the contract rose $1.02 to close at $102.58 after strong U.S. employment figures for February. Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, was down 90 cents to $108.11.

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.

Japan revised down its growth estimate for the final three months of last year after announcing a record current account deficit for January. Japan's Cabinet Office said both private and public demand was lower than its earlier estimate.

Oil prices surged last week due to severe winter in the U.S. that raised demand for hitting oil and tension over Russia's military incursion into Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 2.5 cents to $2.949 per gallon.

— Heating oil shed 3 cents to $2.982 per gallon.

— Natural gas was down 4.7 cents to $4.571 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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