Oil prices mixed in Asia

SINGAPORE: Oil prices were mixed in Asian trade Thursday as investors digested an unexpected drop in US crude stockpiles and fresh Chinese trade data, analysts said. The US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate for June delivery, was up 10 cents to $100.87 in late-morning trade while Brent North Sea crude for June eased 11 cents to $108.02 per barrel.

Oil prices were well-supported in the market “due to an unexpected drop in US inventories,” said Sanjeev Gupta, the head of the Asia-Pacific oil and gas practice at consultancy firm EY. The US Department of Energy on Wednesday said crude reserves sank by 1.8 million barrels in the week to May 2, confounding market expectations for a gain of 1.2 million barrels. The fall in US crude reserves indicates resurgent demand in the world´s top crude consumer ahead of the busy summer holiday driving season.

Investors meanwhile were also digesting Chinese official data released Thursday that showed the country´s exports and imports rose marginally in April, rebounding from sharp declines the month before. The figures showed an overall trade surplus of $18.45 billion, the second straight trade surplus amid complaints by analysts over the continued impact of fake reporting of exports seen in early 2013.

“China´s trade data show signs of recovery but continue to understate the true health of the export sector,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China Economist for Capital Economics. Crude investors closely monitor economic data from China for an indication of demand in the world top crude consumer.

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