KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia–Oil advanced above US$101 a barrel Wednesday in Asia, buoyed by positive economic data from the world’s top two crude consumers, China and the U.S. Benchmark crude for February delivery was up 57 U.S. cents at US$101.28 a barrel at late afternoon Kuala Lumpur time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped US$2.01 to finish at US$100.71 on Tuesday. In other energy trading, heating oil rose 0.8 cent to US$3.05 per gallon and gasoline futures rose 1.4 cents to US$2.79 per gallon. Natural gas fell 0.8 cent to US$2.48 per 1,000 cubic feet.
China, the world’s second largest economy, reported 8.9 percent growth in the fourth quarter, slower than the previous quarter but robust enough to indicate it would avoid an abrupt slowdown. Retail and factory production improved while oil demand was up 6.4 percent in 2011 from 2010, according to data cited by Barclays Capital. In the U.S., government data showed manufacturing in New York expanded at the fastest pace in nine months. “The positive economic news out of China and the U.S. have increased optimism about global economic conditions and helped ease concern of a slowdown in oil demand,” said Victor Shum, an energy analyst with Purvin & Gertz in Singapore.