(Repeats to removes stray word in headline)
* Chinese PMI steadies, fails to dispel growth worries
* Libya to resume oil exports from Zueitina port this week
* U.S. crude inventories hit record high
* Weekly U.S. initial jobless claims rise
By Elizabeth Dilts
NEW YORK, May 1 (Reuters) - Brent oil was pressured on Thursday by lacklustre Chinese economic data and expectations for a rebound in Libyan oil exports, while U.S. crude also fell in the wake of the previous day’s news that stockpiles reached multi-decade highs.
China’s Purchasing Managers’ Index rose marginally in April, but export orders fell, which reinforced concerns that economic growth may continue to slow in the world’s second-largest oil consumer.
Libya’s Zueitina oil port was said to have begun loading its first tanker of crude Thursday after being closed for nearly 10 months, adding additional pressure on Brent.
Protests and strikes continue to shutter two other refineries. Analysts do not expect a rapid recovery after previous agreements for Libyan ports to reopen and supplies to resume have failed to be implemented.
U.S. crude oil earlier edged up a few pennies on news that U.S. consumer spending increased in March and factory activity accelerated temporarily.
But the supportive economic releases were overshadowed by Wednesday’s government data that showed domestic stockpiles rose again.
Brent crude was down 75 cents at $107.32 a barrel by 12:13 a.m. EDT (1613 GMT). Its intra-session low of $106.85 was the weakest since April 8.
U.S. crude fell 25 cents to $99.49 a barrel, after rising a few pennies just before noon. Earlier it fell $1 to $98.74, where it found support at the 100-day moving average.
Ongoing 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, traders said.
“The markets have been under pressure due to another build in storage in the U.S. and the reports that Libya is loading oil tankers,” said Gene McGillian, analyst at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut. “But selling pressure may be drying up a little bit. We’re pretty close to finding a bottom in prices given that we have the uncertainty of the geopolitical risk in Ukraine.”
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.
“However, 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.”
The U.S. Energy Information Administration on Wednesday said U.S. crude stocks rose last week to just under 400 million barrels, the highest level since 1982. The increase pressured U.S. crude, widening its discount to Brent CL-LCO1=R to near $8 on Wednesday. The spread was last trading at $7.95 on Thursday.
Additional reporting by Alex Lawler in London and Florence Tan in Singapore; Editing by Alden Bentley