New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for April delivery, was up four cents to $101.16 in mid-morning trade. Brent North Sea crude for April advanced nine cents to $108.17.

Desmond Chua, market analyst at CMC markets in Singapore, said China's "surprisingly dismal" trade balance data was bearing down on the market.

He said in a market commentary that China's weakest trade balance in two years was "fuelling concerns that global growth is stifling".

It was also expected to "ease off some of the crude oil premium built over the Ukrainian crisis", Chua said.

Chinese official figures released Saturday showed the world's second biggest economy recording an unexpected $22.98 billion trade deficit in February.

The figure contrasted with a surplus of $14.8 billion in the same month last year, and a median forecast of an $11.9 billion surplus in a poll of 13 economists by Dow Jones Newswires.

Investors also continue to keep an eye on the geopolitical tensions in Ukraine as the United Nation Security Council met again on Monday following Kiev's request.

The UN has been trying to defuse tensions since Russia deployed troops last week in Ukraine's Crimea peninsula after a months-long tussle over Ukraine's future direction, which saw the pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych flee the country.

Crimea, home to Moscow's Black Sea Fleet, will hold a potentially explosive vote on Sunday on whether to split from Ukraine and join Russia -- threatening to tear the country apart.

There are concerns that US and European sanctions on Moscow over the Crimea incursion could disrupt oil supplies from Russia, a major energy producer and exporter of natural gas to Western Europe.

More than 70 percent of its gas and oil exports to Europe pass through Ukraine.