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Oil prices edge up on improvement in US, China manufacturing strength

Oil prices edged up Wednesday on stronger manufacturing activity in the United States and China, the two biggest oil consumers.

Benchmark U.S. crude for August delivery gained 14 cents to $105.48 per barrel in New York, reversing four days of declines. The contract closed at a 10-month high of $107.26 on June 20.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, gained 9 cents to $112.38 per barrel in London.

Manufacturing activity in China, the world's biggest oil importer, grew in June, according to separate surveys by HSBC Corp. and a Chinese industry group.

In the United States, manufacturing grew for a 13th successive month, though at a slower pace than in May.

Oil prices have risen in recent weeks on concerns that violence in Iraq, OPEC's second-largest exporter, would cut supplies. They stabilized late last week as the stunning initial advance by insurgents lost momentum.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline rose a fraction of a penny to $3.04 per gallon.

— Natural gas gained 0.2 cents to $4.447 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Heating oil held steady at $2.978 a gallon.