* China exports fall for 2nd straight month in March
* U.S. crude stocks rise, at record on Gulf Coast - EIA
* Libya oil guards take control of Hariga port, Zueitina
* OPEC sees lower demand for its crude in 2014
(Recasts throughout, adds settlement prices)
By Elizabeth Dilts
NEW YORK, April 10 Global crude oil drifted
modestly lower on Thursday, pressured by weaker economic data
from China as well as the prospect of a rebound in oil exports
Both China's exports and crude imports fell, stoking
concerns about demand in the world's second-biggest economy.
The trade data coincided with
news that OPEC lowered its 2014 forecast for oil demand.
The Libyan government lifted a force majeure on the eastern
port of Hariga, which had been blockaded due to a dispute with
rebel groups. However, a force majeure remained in effect at
Zueitina, the other Libyan port the government recently
reopened, making a full rebound in exports uncertain.
Tensions between the West and Russia bubbled in the
background as Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to cut
off natural gas supplies to Ukraine if it did not pay its bill.
U.S. crude oil was supported slightly by news that U.S.
jobless claims fell to their lowest level in 7
But that was not enough to outweigh data released Wednesday
that showed U.S. crude oil stocks jumped by 4 million barrels
"The market was knocked by the Chinese import export data -
it was a bearish double whammy," said Matt Smith, analyst at
Schneider Electric in Louisville, Kentucky. "But we're loath to
move lower given the dual concern of Moscow and Libya, where
there is uncertainty as to when control of those ports will
Brent settled 52 cents lower at $107.46 a barrel.
U.S. crude settled 20 cents down at $103.40 per barrel.
The closely watched and traded Brent-WTI spread CL-LCO1=R
tightened 32 to settle at $4.06, its narrowest settlement since
Further losses in Brent were stemmed by optimism after the
U.S. Federal Reserve's dovish policy meeting suggested the
central bank may be more cautious toward raising interest rates,
easing market concerns of a pullback in stimulus before the
economy is ready.
In his most explicit threat to date, President Vladimir
Putin warned European leaders Russia would cut natural gas
supplies to Ukraine, which could lead to a reduction of onward
deliveries to Europe.
The threat risks worsening a dispute with the West over
Russia's annexation of Crimea, and investors are watching to see
whether it results in stiffer economic sanctions on Moscow.
A steep fall in U.S. gasoline stockpiles also put a floor
under oil prices. Gasoline stocks fell by 5.2
million barrels to 210 million barrels in the week ended April
4, Energy Information Administration (EIA) data showed, more
than the expected 729,000-barrel draw.
Demand for gasoline was 4.4 percent higher than a year ago
at 8.8 million barrels per day.
(Additional reporting by Lin Noueihed; editing by David Evans,
Dale Hudson and Tom Brown)