Investing.com - U.S. oil futures held above the $100-a-barrel level on Thursday, as better than expected Chinese trade data supported appetite for growth-linked assets.
Data released earlier showed that China’s trade surplus widened to $18.45 billion in April from a surplus of $7.7 billion in March, compared to estimates for a surplus of $13.9 billion.
Chinese exports climbed 0.9% from a year earlier, beating expectations for a 1.7% decline and following a 6.6% drop in March. Imports rose 0.8%, compared to forecasts for a 2.3% decline and after plunging 11.3% in the previous month.
China is the world''s second largest oil consumer after the U.S. and has been the engine of strengthening demand.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate crude oil for delivery in June declined 0.38%, or 39 cents, to trade at $100.39 a barrel during European morning hours.
Nymex oil held in a range between $100.34 a barrel and $100.93. Futures rallied 1.28%, or $1.27, on Wednesday to settle at $100.77 a barrel.
Futures were likely to find support at $98.91 a barrel, the low from May 5 and resistance at $102.19 a barrel, the high from April 29.
New York-traded oil prices rallied on Wednesday after a U.S. government report showed that oil supplies declined unexpectedly last week.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report that U.S. crude oil inventories declined by 1.8 million barrels in the week ended May 2, compared to expectations for an increase of 1.4 million barrels.
Total U.S. crude oil inventories stood at 397.6 million barrels as of last week.
Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Wednesday that a high degree of monetary accommodation remains warranted given the slack in the economy.
Yellen also said the Fed expects economic growth to accelerate this year despite the slowdown in the first quarter but warned that the recent housing market slowdown "could prove more protracted than currently expected."
Yellen will now testify to the Senate Budget committee in Thursday''s trading session.
Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil for June delivery added 0.61%, or 65 cents, to trade at $107.71 a barrel, while the spread between the Brent and U.S. crude contracts stood at $7.32 a barrel.
Concerns that Ukraine will descend into civil war eased after Russian President Vladimir Putin called on separatists in the eastern reaches of the country to postpone their referendum on independence, and added that Russia had withdrawn its forces from the border.
Putin stressed that Russia will do "all it can" to resolve the crisis and will take a "most positive" approach to international peace efforts.
Russia produced 10.4 million barrels of oil per day in 2012 and exported 7.4 million, making it the world’s second largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia.