UPDATE 1-Brent holds steady near $108; Chinese trade data supports

* China's crude oil imports jump 22 pct to record in April

* China's April trade surplus higher than expected as exports rise

* Oil prices up more than $1 on Wednesday as U.S. crude stocks drop

(Adds analyst comment, updates prices)

SINGAPORE, May 8 (Reuters) - Brent crude hovered around $108 a barrel on Thursday, holding onto most of the gains from the previous session as Chinese customs data showed crude imports in the world's second biggest oil user jumped to a record high.

China's crude imports rose 22.4 percent in April from March, and the data also showed that total exports rose against forecasts for a decline, offering some rare good news for the nation's slowing economy.

"People have been bearish on China, so if we have any good news out of China it should at least provide some support," said Tony Nunan, oil risk manager at Mitsubishi Corp in Tokyo.

Brent crude was down 17 cents at $107.96 per barrel by 0625 GMT, after settling $1.07 higher on Wednesday.

U.S. crude was 12 cents lower at $100.65 per barrel. The contract had gained $1.27 in the previous session.

China's crude oil imports rose to a record 6.78 million barrels per day (bpd) in April, after slipping below 6 million bpd in March for the first time since November last year.

China's imports for the first four months of the year were up 11.5 percent from the same period in 2013.

The sharp rise in April was likely due to builds in China's strategic oil reserves, according to a Barclays research note.

China is expected to add an estimated 39 million barrels of strategic reserves in the first half of the year at two new storage facilities in Tianjin and Huangdao, Barclays analyst Sijin Cheng said in the note.

China's total exports rose 0.9 percent in April, while imports rose 0.8 percent, leaving the country with a trade surplus of $18.5 billion for the month, against expectations of a trade surplus of $13.9 billion.

"We've seen a lot of negative headlines about China, but as long they can show a decent growth ... it's supportive for the oil market," Nunan said.


Oil benchmarks rose by more than $1 on both sides of the Atlantic on Wednesday after data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed an unexpected drop in U.S. inventories in the week ended May 2.

Total stocks fell 1.8 million barrels last week, according to the EIA, compared with analyst' forecasts for a 1.4-million-barrel build. Stocks fell 1.4 million barrels at Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery point for the U.S. futures contract, their lowest since 2008.

Dealing another blow to efforts to restore vital oil exports from Libya and contributing further support to global oil prices, rebels occupying major oil ports in the east said on Wednesday they would boycott Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq and keep two major export terminals shut for now.

Optimism about higher Libyan exports had helped to put pressure on oil prices since the end of last month when oil ports shut since last year were reopened.

But Libyan oil production remains at just over 250,000 bpd, less than a fifth of output around 1.4 million bpd in mid-2013.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called on pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine to postpone a vote on secession just five days before it was to be held, in a move that could remove some of the geopolitical heat from Brent.

(Editing by Tom Hogue)