Oil above US$97 as China manufacturing improves; plentiful supplies check gains

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Oil rose for the first time this week on Thursday, but gains were kept in check by plentiful supplies.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for December delivery gained 25 cents to close at US$97.11 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil is still down $3.70 a barrel, or 3.7 per cent, on the week.

One factor weighing on the price was Wednesday's report from the Energy Information Administration that said U.S. oil inventories rose by 5.2 million barrels last week, a possible symptom of subdued demand and overproduction. The rise in stockpiles followed a four-million-barrel increase the previous week.

Oil did get a lift Thursday from a survey that showed China's manufacturing rose to a seven-month high in October, suggesting continued momentum for the recovery in the world's second-biggest economy.

The preliminary version of HSBC's purchasing managers' index rose to 50.9 from September's 50.2 on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 indicate expansion.

Brent crude fell 81 cents to US$106.99 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex, wholesale gasoline added four cents to US$2.59 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litres), heating oil shed two cents to US$2.90 a gallon and natural gas rose one cent to US$3.63 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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