Crude oil futures slip lower, eyes on U.S. data

Crude oil futures slipped lower during early European trading hours on Friday, as disappointing Chinese trade data continued to weigh on the commodity, while markets eyed the release of U.S. economic reports later in the day.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude oil futures for delivery in May traded at $103.16 a barrel during European morning trade, down 0.24%.

The May contract settled down 0.19% on Thursday to end at $103.40 a barrel.

Oil futures were likely to find support at $102.05 a barrel, the low from April 9 and resistance at $104.95 a barrel, the high from March 4.

Oil prices weakened on Thursday after official data showed that China’s crude oil imports fell to a five-month low in March, dropping to 5.55 million barrels a day, while oil-product imports fell to 540,000 barrels a day.

China’s overall exports unexpectedly fell for the second month in March, while imports dropped sharply, adding to concerns over a slowdown in the world’s second largest oil consumer.

Meanwhile, traders were eyeing the release of U.S. data later in the trading session for further indications of the strength of the country's economic recovery, after data on Thursday showed that U.S. jobless claims dropped more-than-expected last week.

The Labor Department reported that the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits in the week ending April 4 fell by 30,000 to a seasonally adjusted 300,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised total of 332,000.

Analysts had expected jobless claims to decline to 320,000.

Continuing jobless claims declined to 2.77 million, the lowest since January 2008.

Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange, Brent oil futures for May delivery fell 0.17% to trade at $107.28 a barrel, with the spread between the Brent and crude contracts standing at $4.12 a barrel.