* China April official PMI rises to 50.4 from 50.3 in March
* Libya to resume oil exports from Zueitina port this week
* U.S. crude inventories hit new high
* Coming up: U.S. weekly initial jobless claims; 1230 GMT
By Florence Tan
SINGAPORE, May 1 Brent crude eased down towards
$108 a barrel on Thursday, not far above its lowest in more than
two weeks, as lacklustre China data, a potential rise in Libya's
oil supply and record-high inventories in the United States
weighed on prices.
China's official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) in April
edged up from March, but it missed forecasts. Analysts expect
the nation's economic slowdown to continue due to a cooling
property sector and the impact of structural reforms.
"It's slightly negative as it confirms a reasonably
difficult outlook for the Chinese manufacturing sector," said
Ric Spooner, chief analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.
June Brent crude fell 2 cents to $108.05 a barrel by
0642 GMT, following a 0.8 percent drop in the previous session
to settle at its lowest close since April 11. The contract
dropped as low as $107.55 a barrel during Wednesday's session.
U.S. crude for June delivery edged down 3 cents to
$99.71 a barrel, after falling 1.5 percent on Wednesday to
settle at its lowest finish since April 2.
Investors shrugged off the U.S. Federal Reserve's
announcement on Wednesday that it would cut its bond purchases
by another $10 billion, opting to focus on the recovery underway
in the world's largest economy and oil consumer. The investors
will be scouring jobs data due later on Thursday and Friday for
Meanwhile, a rise in U.S. oil supply to its highest ever
depressed West Texas Intermediate (WTI) prices and widened its
spread to Brent CL-LCO1=R to more than $8.
The spread could widen to $10 as WTI comes under pressure
from rising inventories and a risk premium underpins Brent,
U.S. crude inventories rose by 1.7 million barrels in the
week to April 25 to just under 400 million barrels, data from
the Energy Information Administration showed on Wednesday.
This is the largest volume since 1982, when the EIA began
collecting data, exceeding the record set in the previous week.
"The system is struggling to fully accommodate increases in
domestic crude supply despite high refinery utilisation," BNP
Paribas analysts said in a note on U.S. oil inventories.
Brent was weighed down by the imminent restart of the
eastern Zueitina port, although this was partially offset by a
drop in Forties output, the main grade in the benchmark's crude
mix. Britain's Buzzard oilfield in the North Sea, which pumps
Forties, was shut for planned maintenance and construction work.
In Libya, eastern Zueitina port will load on May 1-3 its
first tanker of crude since reopening after being closed for
nearly 10 months due to protests.
"The market continues watching for the potential disruptions
from supplies particularly from Ukraine and Libya," CMC's
Spooner said. Geopolitical risks persist in Libya despite the
restart of two ports, he added.
"It's a very unstable situation and it's very difficult to
count on that supply," Spooner said.
Outages in Africa and sabotage in Iraq are keeping OPEC's
supply far below the group's target even as output has risen in
April from March's three-month low, a Reuters survey found on
(Reporting by Florence Tan; Editing by Tom Hogue)