Crude oil prices declined in Asia Monday as sentiment was dampened after reports indicated a sharp slowdown in the Chinese manufacturing activity in August.
Light sweet crude for October delivery declined 0.19 percent or 19 cents to $96.29 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange during Asian trading hours. Brent crude oil futures for the October delivery fell 0.20 percent or 23 cents to $114.34 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange in London.
Disappointing Chinese manufacturing reports sparked concern over the growth slowdown in the world's second-largest oil consumer. Official data Saturday showed that Chinese manufacturing activity shrank for the first time in nine months, with the Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) declining to 49.2 in August from 50.1 in July, the lowest reading since November 2011, and also fell short of economists' estimate of 50.
Meanwhile, the final reading of the HSBC Flash Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), a measure of the nation-wide manufacturing, showed that manufacturing activity contracted at the fastest pace since March 2009. The PMI declined to 47.6 in August from 49.3 in July and below the preliminary reading of 47.8 announced on Aug. 23.
“The primary reason is the reaction to the PMI figure in China. The general run of indicators in recent months has shown an easing in the Chinese economy and the manufacturing sector in particular,” Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney, told Bloomberg.
However, the downward move was limited as stimulus comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke at the Kansas City Fed's Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium on Friday offered support. Bernanke said the central bank was prepared to take further steps to strengthen the economy if necessary, which was interpreted by market participants as a stronger push for QE3 than before.
On Friday, light sweet crude for the October delivery surged 2 percent or $1.85 and settled at $96.47 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange while Brent crude for the October delivery gained 1.7 percent or $1.92 and settled at $114.57 a barrel.