Oil in New York rose for the first time in three days after China’s exports in December grew more than forecast.
West Texas Intermediate futures increased as much as 0.4 percent after China’s customs administration reported exports jumped by 14 percent in December from a year earlier, exceeding the 5 percent median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey. Imports grew 6 percent after being unchanged the previous month. U.S. crude stockpiles gained by 1.3 million barrels last week, the Energy Department said.
“This will bode well for oil demand from the manufacturing sector” in China, said Gordon Kwan, the head of regional energy research for Mirae Assets Securities Ltd. in Hong Kong, who forecasts WTI could rise above $95 a barrel this week. “This reaffirms our view that China’s export-led economy has indeed staged a genuine turnaround.”
Crude for February delivery advanced as much as 38 cents to $93.48 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was at $93.43 a barrel at 11:13 a.m. Singapore time. The contract closed yesterday at $93.10, the lowest settlement since Jan. 4. Prices declined 7.1 percent last year.
Brent for February settlement increased 10 cents to $111.86 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The European benchmark contract was at a premium of $18.42 to WTI futures, down from $18.66 yesterday.
A rebound in China’s trade may give policy makers more time to shift the economy toward domestic consumption to sustain expansion. Growth cooled to an estimated 13-year low in 2012 as Europe’s debt crisis crimped demand for Chinese goods.
“This is positive for commodities including oil demand,” said Jeremy Friesen, a commodity strategist at Societe Generale SA in Hong Kong. “We continue to see outperformance for China through the first quarter as this cyclical recovery continues, but improved external demand would add to this bullishness.”
Crude fell yesterday after U.S. gasoline stockpiles increased to 233 million barrels, the highest level since February 2011, the Energy Department report showed. They were projected to gain by 2.5 million barrels, according to the median estimate of 11 analysts in the Bloomberg survey. Distillate inventories increased 6.8 million barrels to 131 million, versus a forecast advance of 1.9 million.
Gasoline for February delivery slid as much as 0.81 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $2.7708 a gallon today on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 0.6 percent to settle at $2.7789 yesterday.
Crude stockpiles at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for the WTI, increased for a fifth week to a record 50 million barrels, according to the Energy Department report. It’s the longest streak of gains since June.
U.S. imports of crude rose 18 percent to 8.34 million barrels a day, the first gain in four weeks. They averaged 8.65 million barrels in 2012, according to weekly department data.
“Inventories have been elevated for some time,” said David Lennox, an analyst at Fat Prophets in Sydney. “There might be a modest recovery in demand in the U.S. China will put further pressure on the demand side this year.”
Oil in New York has technical resistance along its 50-week moving average around $93.70 a barrel, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Price advances have stalled near this indicator the past two days. Crude’s 14-day relative strength index also remains close to 70, a level that would signal further gains aren’t sustainable.