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Oil prices drop after weak Chinese trade data

LONDON--Oil prices fell on Thursday after weak Chinese trada data, but losses were curbed by upbeat U.S. demand and lingering doubts about the full resumption of Libyan exports, analysts said.

New York's main contract West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for May delivery dipped nine cents to US$103.51 a barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for May slid 42 cents to stand at US$107.56 a barrel in London late morning trade.

Government data on Thursday showed Chinese imports slumped 11.3 percent year-on-year to US$162.4 billion in March while exports fell 6.6 percent to US$170.1 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of US$7.7 billion.

The numbers may raise further concerns about the health of China's economy, which has shown signs of weakness recently with a string of disappointing indicators, including on industrial production and consumer spending.

“The weak exports highlighted a possible further contraction in the nation's manufacturing sector ... thereby trimming demand prospects for crude oil,” said Tan Chee Tat, investment analyst at Phillip Futures.

Sanjeev Gupta, the head of the Asia-Pacific oil and gas practice at consultancy firm EY, said oil prices retained upside pressure from signs of robust gasoline demand in the United States, the world's biggest economy.

The latest official U.S. supply report showed a drop of 5.2 million barrels of gasoline supplies, much more than the 700,000 barrel decline that had been projected.

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