Oil ends mixed on China, OPEC, U.S. jobs data

Thu May 10, 2012 3:48pm EDT
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By Gene Ramos

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices ended mixed in choppy trading on Thursday as weaker-than-expected Chinese trade data, higher OPEC production and evidence of a strengthening U.S. jobs market muddied the oil demand outlook.

China, the world's second largest oil consumer after the United States, reported that its exports and imports in April grow at a far slower rate than forecast.

Its trade performance that month was also surprisingly weak, and analysts said the government would need to loosen monetary policy to spur expansion or risk missing annual growth targets.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said it pumped 1.62 million barrels more per day, to 31.62 million bpd last month, as Iraq ramped up output and Libya's oil industry recovered. That's above the 30 million bpd target it had set in December.

New U.S. claims for jobless benefits edged down last week, against forecasts for an increase, somewhat calming fears that the labor market was stagnating after surprisingly weak employment growth in April.

The U.S. stock market rebounded after a string of losses, prodding some investors to increase bets on commodities such as oil and copper, though the weak Chinese data and strong OPEC production kept U.S. crude's gains limited. [.N] <USD/>

Some worries about the euro zone debt crisis eased, which helped U.S. crude push higher and limited Brent's slide. The European Financial Stability Facility late Wednesday agreed to release a scheduled bailout payment to Greece, which avoided a funding crisis for the debt-laden country.

Anxiety about the Greek situation eased after euro zone officials said the region was prepared to keep financing the country until it forms a new government, even if new elections must be held.   Continued...

A woman fills petrol into her car at a filling station in Puchheim westward of Munich December 12, 2008. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle