Brent crude remained steady today after data showed that crude imports by China increased in April; however, apprehension over the weak global demand kept a lid on any gains.

Brent was steady at $104.40 a barrel, while US oil jumped by 20 cents to $95.82, reported Reuters.

Customs data showed that China’s daily crude imports increased by 3.7% in April from a year ago and 3.5% against March.

China, the world’s second largest oil consumer, imported 23.08 million tonnes, or 5.62 million barrels per day (bpd), of crude in April, up from 5.42 million bpd in the same month a year ago and 5.43 million bpd in March.

During the first four months of the year the country’s crude imports dropped by 0.9%, partially due to a high base of first-quarter 2012 imports. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has reduced its projection for demand growth for 2013 to 890,000 bpd, a reduction of 70,000 bpd from last month’s forecast.

"Customs data showed that China’s daily crude imports increased by 3.7% in April from a year ago and 3.5% against March."

EIA has increased its 2014 forecast by 120,000 bpd to 1.21 million bpd, which is a total of just in excess of 2.1 million bpd demand growth over two years.

The energy information body expects supplies from countries outside the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to expand by 1.11 million bpd in 2013 and by an additional 1.77 million next year, which is a total growth of almost 2.9 million bpd over the same time period.

Investors are now expected to keep a close watch on data from the EIA, which is expected to be released later in the day, to get a better indication of the country’s demand growth outlook.

According to an industry report, US crude inventories increased by 680,000 barrels for the week to 3 May, mainly driven by around 1.2 million barrel build up on the East Coast.

In a report the American Petroleum Institute (API) said that stockpiles at the Cushing, Oklahoma, hub declined by 646,000 barrels last week.

Image: China shipped in 23.08 million tonnes (5.62 million barrels) of crude daily in April. Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos / cbenjasuwan.