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Oil trades higher on upbeat China manufacturing data, Libyan output

Both West Texas Intermediate and Brent benchmarks edged higher in early European trading on Friday after a government and a private report showed Chinas manufacturing sector expanded at a faster pace in October, adding to previous upbeat economic data from the worlds second-biggest oil consumer. The persisting lack of resolution to protests in Libya which crippled the countrys crude production and exports continued to underpinned the market.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, WTI crude for delivery in December traded at $96.41 per barrel at 8:10 GMT, up 0.03% on the day. Prices plunged to $96.24 earlier in the day, near yesterdays 4-month low, followed by a rebound to session high of $96.65 per barrel. Light, sweet crude lost 0.1% on Thursday and settled October 5.8% lower, the weakest monthly performance in a year. The American benchmark is on track post a fifth weekly decline in a row, the worst losing streak since June 2012.

Meanwhile on the ICE, Brent futures for settlement in December rose by 0.04% to $108.89 per barrel by 8:10 GMT. Prices shifted in a days range between $109.35 and $108.74 per barrel. The European benchmark shed 0.7% on Thursday but extended its weekly advance to 1.6%, set for the best weekly performance in two months as supply outages in Libya supported prices.

Oil prices inched up on Friday after both a government and a private report showed Chinas manufacturing sector expanded at a faster pace in October compared to the preceding month, implying robust demand prospects in the worlds second-largest consumer. The National Bureau of Statistics China reported that the Asian nations manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) rose to an 18-month high of 51.4 in October from 51.1 in September, beating analysts predictions for a surge to 51.2. The upbeat numbers fanned positive sentiment over demand prospects but couldnt provide oil with too much of support after oil reserves in the U.S. rose last week for a sixth consecutive time to the highest in June.

Jonathan Barratt, the chief executive officer of Barratt’s Bulletin in Sydney, commented for Bloomberg: “The numbers over the past month for China have all been good but they’ve failed to hold up oil. Inventories keep building; there’s just too much oil.”

A separate private report by Markit Economics and HSBC showed Chinas manufacturing sector expanded at a faster pace than the preceding month and matched a preliminary reading. The HSBC China Manufacturing PMI surged to 50.9 last month, beating Septembers 50.2 and matching the flash reading.

Despite the slight advance, this was the strongest improvement in operating conditions in seven months. Output at plants rose for a third consecutive month and at the quickest pace since April due to stronger domestic and foreign demand as new orders and export orders surged. The report also marked the strongest expansion of new business from abroad in a year, supported by increased U.S. demand. This comes after data earlier in the month showed Chinas economy grew by 7.8% in the third quarter, beating the preceding three months 7.5% GDP growth and suggesting the Asian economy will likely meet the governments goal for a 7.5% annual economic expansion.

Hongbin Qu, Chief Economist, China & Co-Head of Asian Economic Research at HSBC, commented: “The final HSBC China Manufacturing PMI rose to a seven-month high in October, with the stronger momentum of manufacturing growth translating into the first expansion of employment since March. This in turn should support private consumption growth in the coming months. China is on track for a gradual growth recovery.”

Libyan output

A persisting lack of resolution to protests in Libya which curbed the nations crude output and exports continued to underpin the market and especially the Brent benchmark. A spokesman of the state-run National Oil Corp. said on October 28 that output fell to between 250 000 and 300 000 barrels per day after remaining stable at 600 000 bpd for over a month. Libya is producing between 250 000 and 300 000 barrels per day of crude, of which 100 000 bpd is being used domestically and the rest is being exported and all export terminals except Hariga were closed, Salah A. Ben Ali, the manager of international cooperation at the Oil and Gas Ministry, said earlier in the week.

Exports from the OPEC member have fallen to around 90 000 barrels per day from the two offshore platforms, Al Jurf and Bouri, and have shown little signs of improvement this week. The current export rate is just a fraction from the total capacity of 1.25 million bpd.

Moftah Alamin, a spokesman for Tuareg protesters, said for Bloomberg on Tuesday that Libya wasn’t able to restart its Sharara field, leaving its 350 000 barrels-per-day capacity offline.

Victor Shum, vice-president of energy consultancy IHS Energy Insight, said for CNBC: “Supply concerns over Libya and Iraq will also keep oil supported. The spread between the two has gone too wide, but I do understand the reasons for it. Brent is being supported by production issues, while WTI is being weighed down by the rather big build in U.S. crude stocks.”

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