Oil prices were higher in Asian trade today on optimism that robust trade data from the US and China will augur well for energy demand.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, was up 11 cents at $95.83 and Brent North Sea crude for March delivery gained nine cents to $118.99.

“Positive trade data out of the world’s two largest economies sent traders into the Chinese New Year holidays in an upbeat mood,” said Jason Hughes, head of premium client management at IG Markets Singapore.

“The US narrowed its trade gap to the smallest margin in three years, thanks mainly to record oil exports. Meanwhile, China saw growing demand for exports which raised hopes its recovery is no flash in the pan,” he said in a market commentary.

The US Commerce Department had last Friday reported the trade deficit shrank more than expected in December to $38.5 billion, its lowest level since January 2010, from a revised $48.6 billion in November.

Hughes said that China, the world’s second biggest economy and largest energy consumer, also “starts the new year full of beans as better-than-expected economic news continues to be released’’.

China’s exports jumped 25 per cent year-on-year for January while imports soared nearly 29 per cent.

In Europe, “the black cloud lifted somewhat... after policymakers reached an agreement on its long-term spending plans,” Hughes said.

“For the first time, EU leaders agreed to cut spending as part of the seven-year budget,” he added.

The deal however has to be approved by European Parliament, where legislators have expressed reservations.

(This article was published on February 11, 2013)
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