Customs Data from China showed that refiners were taking advantage of low prices in April as the number two oil consuming nation's imports rose 3.5 percent from March's figures. The data gave Brent prices a lift, but the commodity remained under pressure from global demand worries.
China's increase in imports came after the nation's first quarter crude imports fell a disappointing 0.9 percent and caused many to wonder about the pace of China's economic recovery. However, the growing imports could be the result of savvy inventory building rather than increased demand.
Brent traded at $104.35 at 8:48 GMT on Wednesday morning after the US Energy Information Administration slashed its demand growth forecast and kept a lid on gains from the positive Chinese data. According to CNBC , the EIA reduced its demand growth forecast to 890,000 barrels per day for 2013, and cut its 2014 expectation to 1.21 million bpd. 4
However the report had a silver lining for Brent prices, as the EIA is expecting countries outside of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to increase their supply by 1.11 million bpd in 2013 and 1.77 million bpd next year.
Concern about tension in the Middle East has kept a floor below Brent prices as the Syrian civil war drags on and adds to growing hostility between its neighbors. A recent Israeli airstrike near Damascus aimed at keeping weapons from Lebanese militant forces ignited tension between Israel and Iran and underscored the possibility that the Syrian civil war could soon spill over the nation's borders.
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