Oil rises toward $96 on strong Chinese trade data

BANGKOK – Oil prices rose Wednesday after an upswing in China’s trade for April restored hopes that the world’s second-largest economy was strengthening.

Benchmark crude for June delivery was up 10 cents to US$95.72 per barrel at midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 54 cents to finish at $95.62 per barrel on Nymex on Tuesday.

China said its exports for April rose 14.7 per cent over a year earlier while imports gained 16.8 per cent. Both figures represented an acceleration of growth compared with March.

The figures suggest China’s economic growth might be improving after an unexpected decline to 7.7 per cent in the first three months of the year from the previous quarter’s 7.9 per cent.

Later Wednesday, the U.S. Energy Department will release its weekly report on U.S. oil inventories. Analysts surveyed by Platts expect an increase in supplies of 1.9 million barrels in the week ended May 3. Carl Larry of Oil Outlooks and Opinions said in a daily newsletter that he expects to see an additional 2 million barrels.

Brent crude, which is the benchmark for international oil varieties, fell 7 cents to $104.33 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline dropped 0.7 cent to $2.827 a gallon.

— Heating oil fell 0.4 cent to $2.924 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 1.6 cent to $3.904 per 1,000 cubic feet.