NYMEX-U.S. crude rises on stronger demand outlook

PERTH Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:31pm GMT

PERTH Feb 11 (Reuters) - U.S. crude rose slightly in early Asian trade on Monday, supported by indications of improving demand from China.

Lighter trade volumes are expected at the beginning of this week, with many traders in Asia away for the Chinese New Year holiday.

FUNDAMENTALS

* U.S. crude futures rose 12 cents to $95.84 per barrel at 2311 GMT on Monday.

* Brent rose 1 cent to $118.91 per barrel after rising to a peak of $119.17 a barrel, the highest since May, on Friday.

* Chinese crude oil imports rose to the third-highest daily rate on record, and overall exports and imports were much stronger than expected, data showed, accelerating signs of a rebound in the world's second-biggest oil consumer.

* Goldman Sachs, one of the most influential banks in commodity markets, said Brent's near $10 rally so far this year is "less driven by supply shocks and instead by improving demand".

* Japan has offered to help Saudi Arabia build nuclear power stations to free up more oil for exports, Kyodo news agency reported on Sunday, but a visiting Japanese minister said he was not seeking a supply increase now.

* Oil traders have also been watching weather developments in the U.S. Northeast, where a blizzard dumped up to 40 inches (1 meter) of snow with hurricane force winds, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power.

* Iran appears to have resumed converting small amounts of its higher-grade enriched uranium into reactor fuel, diplomats say, a process which if expanded could buy time for negotiations between Washington and Tehran on its disputed nuclear programme.

MARKETS NEWS

* On Wall Street Friday, the Nasdaq composite stock index closed at a 12-year high and the S&P 500 index at a five-year high, boosted by gains in technology shares and stronger overseas trade figures.

* The euro dipped to a two-week low in Asia on Monday, continuing to pull back from 15-month highs following what markets perceived as dovish comments from the European Central Bank and political uncertainty in Italy and Spain.

DATA/EVENTS (GMT)

0745 France Industrial output mm Dec 2012 (Reporting by Rebekah Kebede; Editing by)