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Crude oil falls to near US$100 after China's improving but weak trade data

Oil workers stand at a facility site in the desert oil fields of Sakhir, Bahrain, on Nov. 21, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Hasan Jamali

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Oil workers stand at a facility site in the desert oil fields of Sakhir, Bahrain, on Nov. 21, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Hasan Jamali

The price of oil declined Thursday but stayed above US$100 a barrel after data showed subdued imports by China, the world's largest crude consumer.

China's customs data showed that imports rose 0.8 per cent in April. That's an improvement from the previous month's 11.3 per cent decline, but still weak.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for June delivery fell 51 cents to close at US$100.26 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Wednesday, U.S. crude jumped $1.27 after a surprise decline in the nation's stockpiles.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international varieties of oil used by many U.S. refineries, fell nine cents to close at US$108.04 in London.

The weak Chinese imports reflect slowing economic growth there, which means less demand for gasoline, diesel and other fuels made from crude oil.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine — where pro-Russian insurgents said they would go ahead with a Sunday referendum on autonomy — and another twist in Libya's efforts to increase oil exports kept prices from falling further.

Analysts at Commerzbank in Frankfurt noted rebels in Libya "have broken off talks on the opening of the country's two biggest oil terminals and have additionally threatened to reoccupy the two already opened oil terminals."

Libya's exports have dropped to less than 300,000 barrels a day compared with around 1.4 million barrels a year ago.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex, — wholesale gasoline fell 1.3 cents to close at US$2.905 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litre), heating oil fell 0.7 cents to close at US$2.92 a gallon and natural gas fell 16.8 cents to close at US$4.572 per 1,000 cubic feet.

(TSX:ECA), (TSX:IMO), (TSX:SU), (TSX:HSE), (NYSE:BP), (NYSE:COP), (NYSE:XOM), (NYSE:CVX), (TSX:CNQ), (TSX:TLM), (TSX:COS), (TSX:CVE)

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