Oil futures edged lower Monday after the U.S. benchmark touched the $70-a-barrel threshold for the first time in more than 2 1/2 years.
West Texas Intermediate crude for July delivery was down 16 cents, or 0.2%, at $69.46 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after hitting a session high of $70 in earlier action. WTI last traded at $70 or above in October 2018, based on action in most actively traded contracts, according to FactSet.
August Brent crude the global benchmark, was down 22 cents, or 0.3%, at $71.67 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.
Analysts said the focus remains on upbeat demand expectations, but that China trade data released early Monday may have helped cool the market.
The data showed crude imports over the first five months of 2021 rose 2.3% year over year, but that a May total of 9.69 million barrels a day was decline from 9.86 million barrels a day in April and a fall of 14.6% year over year, said Warren Patterson, head of commodities strategy at ING, in a note.
The data “suggests that Chinese refiners are reluctant to import at these higher prices, and instead prefer to draw down inventories,” he said. “We will need to wait for industrial output data later in the month to see if this really is the case, but if it is, it would be the second month in a row, where we have seen Chinese inventories edge lower.”
“Clearly, if we see Chinese refiners taking a step back from imports, this would be a bearish development for the market,” he said.