Oil prices tick up after robust China data

Brent crude oil futures were up 25 cents, or 0.4%, at $63.53 a barrel by 0855 GMT

  
Image used for illustrative purpose only. Pumpjacks are seen at an oil field in Huaian, Jiangsu province, China November 11, 2017. Picture taken November 11, 2017.

Image used for illustrative purpose only. Pumpjacks are seen at an oil field in Huaian, Jiangsu province, China November 11, 2017. Picture taken November 11, 2017.

REUTERS/Stringer

LONDON - Oil prices rose on Tuesday after strong Chinese import data but markets broadly shrugged off Middle East tensions which have so far not disrupted oil supply.

Brent crude oil futures were up 61 cents, or 1%, at $63.89 a barrel by 1221 GMT while U.S. crude oil futures gained 53 cents, or 0.9%, to $60.23 a barrel. Both contracts have recorded changes of less than 1% for four straight sessions.

China's exports grew at a robust pace in March in yet another boost to the nation's economic recovery as global demand picks up amid progress in worldwide COVID-19 vaccinations, while import growth surged to the highest in four years.

Crude oil imports into China jumped 21% in March from a low base of comparison a year earlier as refiners ramped up operations. 

OPEC in its monthly report on Tuesday raised its forecast for 2021 oil demand growth by 70,000 to growth of 5.95 million barrels per day (bpd), or 6.6%.

Also supporting prices, U.S. crude oil stockpiles were expected to have fallen last week for a third straight week, while distillate and gasoline inventories likely grew, a preliminary Reuters poll showed on Monday. 

Still, U.S. oil output from seven major shale formations is expected to rise for a third straight month, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Monday. 

Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi movement said on Monday it had fired 17 drones and two ballistic missiles at targets in Saudi Arabia, including Saudi Aramco facilities in Jubail and Jeddah. 

"The rise in geopolitical tension will only have a notable bullish impact on oil prices if it is coupled with actual physical supply disruption," PVM analysts said in a note.

The slow rate of vaccinations in Europe and anticipation of additional supply of oil from Iran in the coming months capped price gains.

(Additional reporting by Jessica Jaganathan in Singapore; editing by Jason Neely) ((Shadia.Nasralla@thomsonreuters.com; +44 207 542 5083; +44 778 99 43141; Reuters Messaging: Reuters Messaging: shadia.nasralla.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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