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Singapore, April 2, 2012 (AFP)
Oil prices were higher in Asia on Monday as dealers were boosted by figures showing a rise in manufacturing activity in China, the world’s largest energy user, analysts said.

New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in May, gained 17 cents to $103.19 per barrel while Brent North Sea crude for May settlement was up 37 cents at $123.25 in the afternoon.

Official data Sunday showed China’s manufacturing activity rose to the highest level for a year in March, easing concerns over a slowdown in the world’s number two economy.

“China’s manufacturing data helped edge up oil prices with hopes of strengthening demand, said Justin Harper, market strategist at IG Markets Singapore.

The China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said Sunday the official purchasing managers index (PMI) rose to 53.1 from 51 in February, helped by an increase in new orders.

It marked the fourth consecutive month of expansion for manufacturing activity. A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below 50 suggests contraction.

Tensions between the West and major crude producer Iran continue to lend support to oil prices as investors fret over possible supply disruptions as the Islamic republic is hit by stringent sanctions.

The two sides are at odds over Iran’s nuclear programme which Tehran has said is for civilian purposes but the United States and its allies believe is being used to build a nuclear weapon.

Iran has previously threatened to shut the strategic Strait of Hormuz — a conduit for a fifth of global oil supply — if it is hit by further sanctions from the West.


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