Oil hovers near $94 as China inflation contains gains from trade rebound

Oil prices edged up Friday but gains were contained by a rise in China's inflation that if sustained could limit measures to support growth.

Benchmark oil for February delivery was up 3 cents to $93.85 per barrel at midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The contract rose 72 cents to finish at $93.82 a barrel in New York on Thursday, a gain that traders attributed to a rebound in China's trade growth, which suggests a possible recovery in global demand.

Data released Thursday showed China's export growth in December more than quadrupled from the previous month's level to 14 percent. Imports rose 6 percent, after failing to grow at all in November, in a sign of increasing domestic demand.

It was tempered, however, by data showing China's inflation spiking to a six-month high in December. Consumer prices rose 2.5 percent over a year earlier, the National Bureau of Statistics said, driven by a 14.8 percent jump in vegetable prices after a severe winter hurt harvests.

Higher inflation could hamper Beijing's ability to support China's recovery.

"Although this shows greater demand in China, it also stokes inflationary fears, which might lead to some form of tightening," said Stan Shamu of IG Markets in Melbourne.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell 34 cents to $111.55 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 1.5 cents to $2.778 a gallon.

— Heating oil fell 1 cent to $3.045 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 0.4 cent to $3.189 per 1,000 cubic feet.