Oil Moves Higher After Four Days of Declines

Published December 10, 2012

| Reuters

Brent crude oil rose above $108 a barrel on Monday, snapping five straight days of losses after Chinese data showed the world's biggest energy consumer was rebounding after a slowdown.

China's implied oil demand surpassed 10 million barrels per day (bpd) for the first time in November, while its crude imports also rose further, providing more evidence of economic recovery.

Brent futures jumped $1.52 to a high of $108.54 and were trading around $108.50 by 1310 GMT. The rally ended Brent's longest losing streak since early November. The North Sea contract shed almost 4 percent last week.

U.S. light crude oil futures rose 80 cents to $86.73, reversing four straight days of declines.

"Chinese data is particularly strong," said Carsten Fritsch, senior oil analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

"The figures are another confirmation that Chinese oil demand is accelerating again, and there are good reasons to expect that it will carry on growing strongly next year."

Apparent oil demand in China, the largest user of energy and second-biggest consumer of oil after the United States, grew at its fastest pace in two years and was 610,000 bpd above the previous record.

REBOUNDING ECONOMIC GROWTH

Data on Sunday showed China's refinery runs rose 9.1 percent to 10.125 million bpd from a year earlier as companies started new refining units.

China's factory output and retail sales jumped in November as consumer inflation bounced off 33-month lows, indicating the country is enjoying an enviable mix of benign inflation and rebounding economic growth.

"The industrial production and retail sales data China released over the weekend build on the picture painted by recent data, which suggests that China's economy has turned the corner and is growing at over 7.5 percent annually," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

The data followed numbers out of the United States that showed the unemployment rate fell to a near four-year low of 7.7 percent.

Asian stock markets took heart from the positive data, rising to a 16-month high.

Investors await the outcome of a meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve, which is expected to signal it will continue to pump money into the economy in 2013.

The market will also watch for comments on the supply outlook at a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on Dec. 12.

The group is expected to stick with an output target of 30 million bpd agreed a year ago despite high stockpiles and slowing demand growth because turmoil in the Middle East has kept prices above $100 for most of this year.

"The most likely outcome at OPEC this week is a roll-over, with no change in output targets," said Tamas Varga, oil analyst at London brokers PVM Oil Associates.

Commerzbank's Fritsch agreed:

"That means OPEC will continue to over-produce. The only way OPEC can reduce output is for Saudi Arabia to produce less, but it is very unlikely Saudi Arabia will cut because it does not want to risk a rise in oil prices."

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