Oil prices steadied today as a key North Sea pipeline recommenced operations and after a reported rise in Chinese exports.

Brent crude rose by four cents to $111.19 per barrel, while US oil declined by two cents to $91.54, reported Reuters.

The Brent oil pipeline system in the UK North Sea, which is part of the global Brent benchmark, commenced operations after its second shutdown in nearly two months.

A pipeline system, with a 80,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) capacity was closed on Saturday, following an oil leak in one leg of the 10,000bpd Cormorant Alpha platform, which hadn’t been in operation since mid-January.

In January and February, Chinese exports jumped 23.6%, while imports rose by five percent, compared with predictions for rises of 17.6% and 10.0%, respectively.

"Brent crude rose by four cents to $111.19 per barrel, while US oil declined by two cents to $91.54."

On Friday, customs data showed that China’s oil imports dropped about nine percent in February, from a year earlier, on a daily basis.

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The report said that February’s daily rate fell 8.9% from a high base recorded in 2012, when imports reached 5.95 million bpd, the second highest on record.

According to the customs data, the fall was driven by a rise in imports to a record 5.42 million bpd in 2012.

Investors will now keep a close watch on US non-farm payroll numbers, which are expected to be released on Friday, and play a key role to shape the Federal Reserve’s policy on quantitative easing.

Prices received some support on Thursday, after jobless claims numbers in the US for February dropped unexpectedly last week.

Image: The Brent oil pipeline restarted operations. Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos / suwatpo.