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Oil prices mixed after Chinese trade data

Low oil prices could force the closure of around 140 oil fields in Britain's North Sea in the coming five years, a report released Wednesday by consultants Wood Mackenzie.

[NEW YORK] Oil prices were mixed on Tuesday after Chinese trade data showed imports and exports shrank in August, adding to concerns about energy demand prospects in the Asian giant.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for delivery in October closed at US$45.94 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down 11 cents from Friday's settlement. The NYMEX was closed on Monday for the Labour Day holiday.

Brent North Sea crude for October jumped US$1.89 to US$49.52 a barrel in London.

Official Chinese data showed exports fell 5.5 per cent year-on-year while imports plunged 13.8 per cent, led by falling commodity prices.

"China imported considerably less crude oil in August. The 6.3 million barrels per day reported by the customs authorities correspond to a 13 per cent month-on-month decline," Commerzbank analysts said in a research note, while noting that the decline followed near-record crude oil imports in July.

"This data just reinforces the view we are still seeing weakness in the Chinese economy and this data point suggests we have not seen a bottom yet," Bernard Aw, market strategist at IG Markets, told AFP.

"China's economy remains a worry for the wider world economy and global asset markets," he added.

Commerzbank analysts also pointed to Saudi output plans as more downward pressure on prices.

"According to well-informed industry sources, Saudi Arabia plans to maintain its current production level of 10.2-10.3 million barrels per day until the end of the year.... Saudi Arabia cites strong global demand as its justification," Commerzbank said.

"In other words, it is continuing to pursue its strategy of defending market shares, and is thus preventing any reduction of the oversupply on the global oil market."