Oil rebounded in Asian trade today on geopolitical concerns after crude producer Iran rejected a US offer on nuclear talks, and on healthy trade data from China.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, increased 23 cents to $96.06 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for March delivery gained 28 cents to $117.52.

Prices were down in overnight US trade.

“Brent is trading a little stronger on developments in Iran,” said Jason Hughes, head of premium client management at IG Markets Singapore.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had yesterday rejected a US offer to negotiate one-on-one on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, ruling out such contacts so long as Washington keeps up its threats against the Islamic republic.

Western powers believe Iran is trying to build an atomic weapon, but Tehran says its nuclear research is for peaceful purposes.

Other analysts said investors were also taking heart from robust trade figures from China, the world’s second biggest economy and largest energy consumer.

Official data released today showed that China’s trade surplus rose 7.7 per cent year-on-year to $29.2 billion in January as the country maintained its economic recovery on improving demand.

Exports jumped 25 per cent to $187.4 billion last month, while imports soared 28.8 per cent to $158.2 billion, the General Administration of Customs said in a statement.

Zhang Zhiwei, a Hong Kong-based economist with Nomura International, said the data showed that the Chinese economy “is on track for a cyclical recovery in the first half (of this year)”.

(This article was published on February 8, 2013)
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