Oil prices slip from recent highs
Oil prices fell on Monday on profit-taking after last week's strong gains, but analysts said optimism over stronger energy demand sparked by robust US and Chinese trade data should keep prices supported.
Brent North Sea crude for delivery in March fell 57 cents to 118.33 a barrel in London midday deals.
The contract on Friday scaled a nine-month peak at $119.17 a barrel on healthy economic data -- and owing to geopolitical concerns after crude producer Iran rejected a US offer on nuclear talks, traders said.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for March, eased 17 cents to $95.55 a barrel in Monday trading.
"Positive trade data out of the world's two largest economies sent traders into the Chinese New Year holidays in an upbeat mood," said IG trading group analyst Jason Hughes.
The US Commerce Department reported last Friday that the trade deficit shrank more than expected in December to $38.5 billion, its lowest level since January 2010, from a revised $48.6 billion in November.
Hughes said China, the world's second biggest economy and largest energy consumer, also "starts the new year full of beans as better than expected economic news continues to be released."
China's exports jumped 25 percent year-on-year in January while imports soared nearly 29 percent.
© 2013 AFP