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Oil rises above $97 as China manufacturing improves, gains kept in check by plentiful supplies

Stronger Chinese manufacturing pushed the price of oil higher Thursday but gains were kept in check by plentiful supplies.

Benchmark U.S. crude for December delivery was up 65 cents at $97.51 a barrel at midafternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The contract fell $1.44 to $96.86 on Wednesday after the Energy Information Administration 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 4 million barrel increase in the previous week.

The price of crude has fallen about 5 percent over the past week to its lowest levels since June. But it got 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.

Output, new orders and new export orders all increased at a faster rate, according to the survey, which is based on 85-90 percent of responses from 420 factories.

Brent crude was up 31 cents at $108.11 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline added 1 cent to $2.553 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 1.1 cents to $3.608 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Heating oil shed 0.7 cent to $2.929 a gallon.