Oil prices have declined by almost 1% on reports of weak Chinese data with regard to imports and exports.

International Brent crude oil futures fell 57 cents and were at $59.91 per barrel, while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures declined 47 cents trading at $51.12 a barrel, Reuters reported.

Official data revealed that China’s overall exports for December dropped by 4.4% from a year earlier. This points to further weakening in the world’s biggest trading nation and second-largest crude oil consumer.

Imports also contracted last month, declining 7.6%.

“Crude futures were back in the red as trading began for a fresh week in Asia, in tandem with most of the region’s stock markets.”

Vanda Insights energy consultant Vandana Hari told the news agency: “Crude futures were back in the red as trading began for a fresh week in Asia, in tandem with most of the region’s stock markets … (as) China early Monday reported $351.76 billion trade surplus in dollar terms for 2018, the lowest since 2013.”

The weak figures confirm a series of indicators that have been pointing to an economic slowdown since the second half of last year.

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According to traders, the data pulled down crude oil futures and Asian stock markets alike.

China’s oil imports remained steady last month at 10.31 million barrels per day (Mbpd), despite the weak trade data.

Amid this strong Chinese demand, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and some non-OPEC members, including Russia, have been cutting supply since late last year.

This offered some support to crude prices.

Energy services firm Baker Hughes said in its weekly report that drillers in the US cut four oil rigs in the week ending 11 January, bringing the total count down to 873.