Oil ticks lower after weak China data underlines demand worries

Oil futures fell Monday after weak economic data from China underlined demand fears tied to COVID-19 lockdowns, while Shanghai officials announced a partial opening of some businesses in the country’s largest city and key commercial hub.

Price action
  • West Texas Intermediate crude for June delivery


    fell $1.58, or 1.5%, to $108.91 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

  • July Brent crude

    the global benchmark, was down $1.67, or 1.5%, at $109.88 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.

  • June natural gas
    rose 1.2% to $7.863 per million British thermal units.

  • June gasoline
    edged down 0.2% to $3.95 a gallon after ending Friday at a record, while June heating oil
    shed 1.9% to $3.8453 a gallon.

Market drivers

China’s National Bureau of Statistics said that retail sales fell 11.1% on year in April, widening from a drop of 3.5% in March. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had looked for a 5.4% decline.

China’s industrial production also unexpectedly dropped, falling 2.9% from a year earlier in April, after a 5% on-year increase in March, coming in well below the 1% growth anticipated by surveyed economists.

Concerns around China and its consumption levels have served as a partial counterweight to supply worries that have been amplified by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, Shanghai allowed supermarkets, malls and restaurants to reopen in limited capacity on Monday.

Oil futures surged over 4% on Friday to turn positive for the week. The push higher by the petroleum complex was led by gasoline futures, which ended at a record.

“The continuous inventory withdrawal over the past few weeks has pushed U.S. gasoline stocks to levels significantly below the five-yr average at this point in the season and reflects acute supply tightness,” said Warren Patterson, head of commodities strategy at ING, in a note. “Refineries increased operating rates last week to improve supply; however, a shortfall persists.”