Light sweet crude for February delivery gained 0.38 percent or 35 cents to $93.45 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange during the Asian trading hours. Brent crude oil futures for the February delivery rose 0.14 percent or 15 cents to $111.92 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange in London.
Investor sentiment turned positive after China reported better-than-expected trade figures for December, suggesting that the world’s second-largest economy is reviving its growth momentum and raised expectation of a hike in fuel demand.
Data released by the National Bureau of Statistics Thursday showed that China’s trade surplus widened to $31.6 billion in December from $19.6 billion in November and also topped analysts’ estimation of 19.7 billion.
Exports, a key indicator of China's economic growth, rose 14.1 percent in December from a year earlier, sharply higher compared to 2.9 percent increase in November and also beat Reuters estimation of a 4.6 percent rise. Imports grew 6 percent on annual basis in December compared to zero growth in November and above analysts’ expectation of a 3 percent rise.
“The growth in imports has been higher than expectations, which speaks highly for Chinese oil demand and global demand as a whole. Clearly, it will be seen as a positive for oil," Michael McCarthy, chief market analyst, CMC Markets Sydney, told Reuters.
On Wednesday, Light sweet crude for the February delivery declined 5 cents and settled at $93.10 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange while Brent crude for the February delivery fell 0.16 percent or 18 cents to at $111.76 a barrel.