(Reuters) - Brent crude slipped below $113 on Thursday, after weaker-than-expected Chinese trade data that raised concerns over energy demand by the world's second-largest oil consumer.
Government data showed China's exports and imports in April grew at a far slower rate than forecast.
Prices were also pressured by signs of rising U.S. crude inventories, although this was tempered by falling refined fuel stocks in the world's top oil consumer.
The weak Chinese data is putting more pressure on oil. With demand for oil looking bleak and rising inventories, I don't expect crude oil prices to rebound any time soon, said Miguel Audencial, a trader with CMC Markets in Sydney.
Brent crude lost 24 cents to $112.96 a barrel by 2:39 a.m. EDT (0639 GMT), after settling at $113.20 on Wednesday, up 47 cents.
U.S. crude slipped 5 cents to $96.78.
China's trade performance last month was surprisingly weak, and analysts said the government would need to loosen monetary policies to spur expansion or risk missing their annual growth targets.
If the government does not relax policies further, all factors that dragged growth down in the first three months will still remain in the second quarter, said Jianguang Shen, chief economist at Mizuho Securities Asia in Hong Kong.
China imported 22.26 million metric tonnes (24.53 million tons) of crude oil in April, down 5.5 percent from 23.55 million tonnes in the previous month, according to data from China's General Administration of Customs.
EURO ZONE, SUPPLY WEIGHS
Oil prices plunged this week on worries leadership changes in France and Greece could threaten austerity plans seen as key to tackling the euro zone debt crisis.
Fresh concerns over the health of Spanish banks have added to Europe's woes, but Greece appeared to have averted an imminent funding crisis after the board of the European Financial Stability Facility agreed on Wednesday to a scheduled 5.2 billion euro payment.
Signs of rising supplies globally also weighed on oil prices. U.S. crude oil inventories rose 3.65 million barrels last week, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in its weekly report, more than analyst expectations.
But the inventory boost in the EIA data was much less than a rise of 7.8 million barrels reported by the American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday.
Gasoline stocks fell 2.61 million barrels and distillate stocks fell 3.25 million barrels, the EIA said.
Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said on Wednesday oil markets would remain well supplied even after fresh international sanctions against Iran take effect, as global crude oversupply is already as much as 1.5 million barrels per day.
Higher production from Saudi Arabia has partly filled a supply gap caused by lower imports from sanctions-hit Iran.
(Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)