Oil rose on Tuesday, supported by concerns U.S. flooding could hit Gulf Coast refinery operations and data showing strong Chinese crude imports for April.

While no refineries had been forced to cut operations yet, rising waters along the Mississippi threatened to disrupt plants in Louisiana in the next two weeks.

Gasoline futures led oil market gains, with the flood threat adding to concerns about 11 straight weeks of inventory declines as the United States gears up for the peak summer holiday period.

Traders were awaiting the release of U.S. inventory data from the American Petroleum Institute later on Tuesday, expected to show another small drawdown in gasoline inventories and an increase in crude stockpiles.

Brent rose 96 cents to $116.86 a barrel at 1:28 p.m.. U.S. crude traded up 30 cents to $102.85 a barrel as U.S. gasoline futures jumped 2 percent.

Trade volumes, which surged last week as prices tumbled $16 a barrel, with Brent volumes were 45 percent over the 30-day in mid-afternoon trade New York and U.S. crude 11 percent below that average.

Volume has remained strong as traders remain cautious and watch every market turn after last week's sell off and the 6 percent rebound on Monday, analysts said.

Crude futures are stronger today as the flooding in Mississippi River has raised worries about refinery operations in that region, said Mark Waggoner, president of Excel Futures in Bend, Oregon.

The other bullish influence today is the strong trade data from China, which seems to have overcome, at least for the moment, concerns about any slowdown in its economy.


Chinese crude oil imports in April were the third highest on record, on a daily basis, at 5.24 million barrels of crude oil per day (bpd), up 1.7 percent on the year, official customs data showed on Tuesday.

Oil product imports in the No. 2 oil consumer fell by 17 percent drop, however, as smaller refineries cut runs to cope with high oil prices, diminishing demand for feedstocks.

News that the CME Group Inc raised margins on U.S. crude oil futures for a fourth time since February in an effort to tackle rising volatility weighed on prices in early trade.

Having high margin requirements makes it more difficult for speculative traders to enter the market, so naturally that will cause less speculative activity in oil markets, said Ben Westmore, commodity economist at National Australia Bank.

(Reporting by Robert Gibbons, Gene Ramos, and Matthew Robinson in New York; Additional reporting by Alejandro Barbajosa, Randy Fabi and Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by David Gregorio)