January crude oil prices trended higher during the overnight and early morning hours, helped by a positive outside market tone, gains in European and US equity markets and a pullback in the US dollar. There was manufacturing data out of China and Europe overnight that came in slightly better than expected, but it continued to reflect contraction. Risk appetites showed improvement early this morning with a well-received Spanish bond auction, especially after a disappointing Italian auction yesterday. Meanwhile, yesterday's weak macro economic vibe took the focus off a seemingly positive EIA inventory report. EIA crude stocks fell 1.932 million barrels, which was a little larger than expected. This brought current inventories to 11.867 million barrels below year ago levels but 9.004 million barrels above the five year average. The decline in stocks came on a notable drop in crude oil imports, down 11.8% on the week to a rate of 8.322 million barrels per day. The refinery operating rate was down 2.6% on the week to 85.10%, which compares to 88.0% last year and the five year average of 86.12%.