Crude oil finished a volatile session slightly higher after earlier reaching above the key $60 per barrel mark. Higher imports from China and a weaker dollar outweighed the expectations of another build in weekly U.S. inventories.
Light sweet crude oil for June delivery finished at $58.85, up 35 cents on the session. Earlier, oil rallied as high as $60.08, a new six-month intraday high.
Prices surged earlier amid data released in China showed the world's second-biggest energy user increased its crude imports by 14% to 16.17 million metric tons in the month of April.
Meanwhile, oil's hedge value was boosted as the dollar found a new 7-week low versus the euro and a four-month low against the sterling. Gold usually moves opposite the dollar as traders tend to hedge a weak greenback with the precious metal.
Energy Information Administration data is due at 10:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday. Experts predict a build of 1.4 million barrels of crude oil and an increase of 400,000 barrels for gasoline for the week ended May 8.
Last week's report showed U.S. commercial crude oil inventories increased by 600,000 barrels from the previous week.
On Tuesday morning, the EIA forecast crude oil to average $55 per barrel in the third quarter of 2009.
On the economic front in the U.S., a Commerce Department report showed that the trade deficit widened to $27.6 billion in March from a revised $26.1 billion in February. Economists had expected the deficit to widen to $29.0 billion compared to the $26.0 billion originally reported for the previous month.
Crude lost 13 cents yesterday after surging $5.43 per barrel last week, its biggest weekly gain since March. Overall, crude has been trending higher for nearly three weeks as traders bet energy demand will rise.
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