Oil prices rebound in Asia on positive Chinese data

Oil prices rebounded in Asia on Friday, buoyed by better-than-expected Chinese data, analysts said, as traders keep an eye on Cyprus as it struggles to draw up a revised plan for vital a bailout.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May added 11 cents to $92.56 a barrel in the afternoon and Brent North Sea crude for May delivery increased 23 cents to $107.70.

"I think positive Chinese data is keeping prices up, while the market waits for Cyprus to make a decision on its bailout deal," said Tony Nunan, risk manager at Mitsubishi Corp in Tokyo.

Manufacturing activity in China, the world's largest energy user, improved in March after expanding at its slowest pace in four months in February, HSBC said Thursday.

The British banking giant's preliminary purchasing managers' index (PMI) for China, a widely watched barometer of the health of the economy, came in at 51.7 for the month from 50.4 in February.

A reading above 50 points to growth while anything below indicates contraction.

However, the market remains jittery about a possible debt default by Cyprus after the European Central Bank (ECB) said it would halt funding to the country's banks if a new bailout deal was not agreed before Monday.

The withdrawal of ECB support for Cypriot banks could lead a possible run by customers scrambling to withdraw their cash, resulting in the collapse of the island's financial system.

Analysts fear this could lead to contagion in the eurozone, which is already grappling with debt crises in other, bigger countries including Spain and Italy.