The price of oil declined Thursday but remained above $100 a barrel after China's monthly trade data showed subdued imports by the world's largest crude consumer.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark U.S. crude for June delivery was down 59 cents at $100.18 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Wednesday, the Nymex contract added $1.27 to close at $100.77 after a surprise decline of 1.8 million barrels in U.S. crude stockpiles.
Brent crude, a benchmark for international varieties of oil, was down 48 cents to $107.65 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
China's customs data showed that imports rose 0.8 percent in April, improving from the previous month's 11.3 percent decline but still subdued. Exports rose 0.9 percent, a recovery from March's 6.6 percent fall. Weak imports reflect slowing Chinese economic growth, which declined to 7.4 percent in the first quarter of year.
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 said 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 to around 1.4 million barrels a year ago.
A fall in the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits also helped sustain prices, seen as a sign that the job market is slowly improving.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
— Wholesale gasoline lost 0.49 cent to $2.9133 a gallon.
— Heating oil was down 1.3 cents to $2.9145 a gallon
— Natural gas slipped 1.9 cents to $4.721 per 1,000 cubic feet.