Fears of a trade dispute between the US and China have held back oil prices to start the week.

Falls in oil prices came after Asian shares stumbled as the markets were gripped by concerns over the potential stand-off between the countries on trade issues.

Last week, US President Donald Trump signed a memorandum that could see tariffs imposed on up to $60bn of imports from China.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures dipped 29 cents, or 0.4%, to trade at $65.59 a barrel, while Brent crude futures declined 22 cents, or 0.3%, to reach $70.23, according to Reuters.

The proposed US tariffs are separate from the additional taxes on steel and aluminium sourced from several countries, including China.

Crude also fell back of an increase in US drilling rig count to a three-year high of 804.

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By GlobalData
“China surpassed the US to become the world’s largest importer of crude in 2017.”

The rise points to a potential hike in production, which already stands at 10.4 million barrels per day (bpd).

The falls come even as China launched the Shanghai crude oil futures on 26 March, which represents the first benchmark in Asia.

Energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie research director Sushant Gupta was quoted by the news agency as saying: “China surpassed the US to become the world’s largest importer of crude in 2017.

“Rightly so, China would want to play a more active role in influencing the price of crude oil.

“Prices assessed at the Shanghai exchange will reflect China’s crude supply and demand.”

Furthermore, Gupta added that the new benchmark could provide new arbitrage opportunities for traders.