* U.S. crude inventories hit record high
* Weekly U.S. initial jobless claims rise
* Chinese PMI steadies but fails to dispel growth worries
* Libya to resume oil exports from Zueitina port this week
* Coming up: non-farm payrolls Friday at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230
(Rewrites top, adds settlement prices, analyst commentary)
By Elizabeth Dilts
NEW YORK, May 1 U.S. oil futures edged lower on
Thursday as inventories soared to record highs and traders
awaited Friday's U.S. jobs numbers, while Brent oil was
pressured by muted Chinese economic data and expectations for a
rebound in Libyan oil exports.
The U.S. Labor Department is expected to report 210,000
nonfarm payroll jobs were added in April, according to a Reuters
survey of economists, which would be supportive for crude oil
demand even as domestic inventories rose again last week.
However, data released Thursday showed an unexpected rise in
unemployment claims last week, causing trepidation ahead of the
report, which is scheduled to be released Friday at 8:30 a.m.
In China, the world's second-largest oil consumer, April
factory activity rose marginally but export orders fell, which
reinforced worries that economic growth will continue to slow.
Adding further pressure on Brent, Libya's Zueitina oil port
was said to have begun loading its first tanker of crude
Thursday after being closed for nearly 10 months.
Other economic data out Thursday showed U.S. consumer
spending rose in March and factory activity accelerated, capping
losses in U.S. crude.
Brent crude settled down 31 cents at $107.76 a
barrel, after falling by as much as $1.22 to an intra-session
low of $106.85, the weakest since April 8.
U.S. crude settled 32 cents lower at $99.42 a barrel,
after falling by $1 to $98.74 earlier in the session, where it
found support at the 100-day moving average.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration on Wednesday said
U.S. crude stocks rose last week to just under 400 million
barrels, the highest since 1982. That increase pressured U.S.
crude, widening its discount to Brent CL-LCO1=R to $8.44 on
"The supply in the U.S. is very strong," said Carl Larry,
CEO of consultancy Oil Outlooks. "The only thing that can turn
the market around is more job creation, which would be a strong
signal that demand would rise. Jobs equate oil demand."
Seasonal sell-offs in U.S. gasoline and news that the
Port Arthur Refinery was increasing output sent front-month RBOB
prices 2.6 cents lower to $2.9384 per gallon, which also put
pressure on U.S. crude.
"U.S. crude oil is a bit over-sold and in the last couple
days of April many funds sold off long positions in RBOB" which
removed some of the support for U.S. crude prices, said Richard
Ilczyszyn, chief market strategist and founder of iitrader.com
LLC in Chicago.
Violence in eastern Ukraine and traders' anxiety that this
could lead to disruptions to Russian oil supply set the floor
and prevented bigger moves to the downside, analysts said.
"With all the geopolitical risk and demand for refined
products, we'll see (U.S. crude) stay in this range between this
$98-$97 area," said Ilczyszyn.
(Additional reporting by Alex Lawler in London and Florence Tan
in Singapore; Editing by Alden Bentley and James Dalgleish)