03/12/2012 09:18 EDT | Updated 05/12/2012 05:12 EDT

Oil ends above US$106 as China trade slowdown suggests waning demand for crude

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Crude oil futures settled lower but above US$106 a barrel on Monday after Chinese trade data suggested a weakening global economy.

Benchmark oil for April delivery lost $1.06 to settle at US$106.34 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after hitting a low of US$105.38 earlier in the session.

In London, Brent crude was down 64 cents to settle at US$125.34 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Figures released over the weekend showed China's export growth in the combined January-February period slowed to 6.9 per cent, compared with December's 13.4 per cent. Growth in imports for the two months declined to 7.7 per cent from December's 11.8 per cent

Crude has jumped from US$75 a barrel in October as signs of an improving U.S. economy have bolstered investor confidence. Washington reported Friday that the U.S. economy added a better than expected 227,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate remained steady at 8.3 per cent.

Crude has traded near 10-month highs in recent weeks amid growing tensions over Iran nuclear program.

In other energy trading in New York, natural gas dipped to a new 10-year low, falling by 5.5 cents to end at $2.27 per 1,000 cubic feet. Natural gas prices have plummeted this year thanks to a recent boom in production and weak heating demand this winter.

In other energy trading, heating oil fell by two cents to finish at US$3.24 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litres) and gasoline futures gave up nearly a penny to end at US$3.32 a U.S. gallon.