* Oil falls more than $2 on China data, margin call change
* Euro hits six-week low versus yen on Greek woes
* Asian stocks mixed despite firmer commodities
By Richard Pullin
MELBOURNE, May 10 Oil prices slid on Tuesday as
a bigger-than-expected Chinese trade surplus and a hike in
trading margins for U.S. crude spread caution among traders
about volatile commodity prices, while Greek woes cut the euro
to a six-week low against the yen.
China posted its largest trade surplus in four months in
April, swinging from a trade deficit in the first quarter, as
exports hit a record on stronger global demand.
Optimism over the robust result was set to give a lift to
European stocks, although gains were likely to be limited by
lingering fears of a debt restructuring in Greece after a credit
"Exports are much stronger, that's the basic thing....
Global demand is still pretty strong, a bit stronger than many
people feared," said Tao Wang, an economist with UBS in Beijing.
Speculation that China may extend efforts to slow down its
economy helped depress oil prices, already hit by a 25 percent
hike in trading margins by the CME Group.
Chinese and U.S. officials are meeting in Washington to
thrash out issues including China's grip on the yuan, and the
trade surplus number could ignite fresh criticism from U.S.
NYMEX crude for June CLc1 tumbled $2.21 to $100.32 a
barrel by 0545 GMT, erasing nearly half of a 5 percent rebound
on Monday, while Brent crude LCOc1 fell 1.9 percent to $113.79
a barrel before moving back above $114.
A sharp drop in silver prices last week triggered a broader
pullback in raw materials that had a domino effect on other
risky assets such as emerging market equities, as some investors
slashed big positions and went to the sideline.
The CME's move to make it more expensive for speculators to
trade oil futures on margin, while not completely unexpected,
added to a sense that a year-long steep climb in commodity
prices is on hold for now.
Equities were mixed with Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225
up 0.25 percent, aided by a 1.7 percent jump by carmaker
Toyota on reports that its output will return to normal
earlier than expected. Stocks ex-Japan were
flat, while markets in Hong Kong and South Korea were shut for a
Jitters over a possible second bail-out package for Greece
trimmed the euro 0.5 percent to $1.4284, nearing a
seven-week low of $1.4254 hit the previous day. Against the yen,
the euro was at 115.07, its lowest since late March.
The euro's recent fall was accelerated by last week's
commodity sell-off and Monday's move by ratings agency Standard
& Poor's to cut Greece's rating to B from BB-, dragging it
further into junk territory.
"In the short-term, there could be more unwinding of
euro/dollar long positions due to negative news on fringe euro
zone countries' debt problems," said Junya Tanase, currency
strategist at JPMorgan in Tokyo.
But some analysts said the euro was unlikely to fall as
sharply as it did a year ago when the Greek debt crisis hit
financial markets, because there was now a safety net for
"Last year there was an imminent threat that Greece could
default. But now, even though people are talking about the
possibility that some countries could default in the future,
there are no worries about immediate defaults," said JPMorgan's
The oil price fall followed a volatile week of trading that
saw U.S. crude prices fall from over $114 a barrel -- the
highest level since 2008 -- to $94 a barrel.
The impact of the margin hike on oil prices may be less
severe than on silver, which fell more than 30 percent in late
April due to a succession of margin hikes,sparking a sell-off in
Spot silver slipped slightly to around $37.56, while
gold edged down to $1,507 an ounce.
China's main stock index was trading slightly
higher, waiting on a slew of data on Wednesday, including
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(Additional reporting by Ayai Tomisawa in TOKYO and Manolo
Serapio Jr in SINGAPORE; Editing by Richard Borsuk)