Oil prices fail to hold early gains as new quarter begins

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Oil futures edged lower early Monday, failing to hold gains seen after upbeat China data.

Price moves

  • West Texas Intermediate crude

    for May delivery


    fell 32 cents, or 0.4%, to $82.10 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

  • June Brent crude

    the global benchmark, was off 36 cents, or 0.4%, at $86.64 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.

  • Back on Nymex, May gasoline

    fell 0.6% to $2.705 a gallon, while May heating oil

    shed 1.1% to $2.594 a gallon.

  • Natural gas for May delivery

    dropped 1.8% to $1.732 per million British thermal units.

Market drivers

Oil futures were buoyed in Asian trading hours after China’s official purchasing managers index, or PMI, for the manufacturing sector rose from 49.1 in February to 50.8 in March. The PMI is on a scale up to 100, where 50 marks the cutoff between expansion and contraction. China is the world’s second-largest oil consumer.

The data “comes after the surprising and very positive growth in industrial production in February, while this set of positive figures reinforces hope that the manufacturing sector will be able to restore solid growth, which will be one of the most important factors to support oil prices this year,” said Samer Hasn, market analyst at, in a note.

Traders are returning from a three-day holiday, with futures trading closed on Good Friday. WTI booked a gain of around 16% in the first quarter. Brent rose nearly 14%, supported by production cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and optimism over the economic outlook.