Futures rose as much as 0.5 percent after a purchasing managers’ index climbed to a one-year high in March. Oil capped a 4.2 percent gain in the first quarter as President Barack Obama said March 30 that world supplies are sufficient to proceed with new sanctions against Iran.
“The firmer tone relates to the official Chinese PMI reading, and that reverses the negative sentiment we’ve seen around China,” said Michael McCarthy, a chief market strategist at CMC Markets Asia Pacific Pty in Sydney. “That speaks well to demand. The Middle East seems to be quietly boiling away without any signs at this stage of a blow-up.”
Oil for May delivery gained as much as 56 cents to $103.58 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was at $103.12 at 3:05 p.m. Singapore time. Prices fell 3.8 percent in March, narrowing the first-quarter gain.
Brent oil for May settlement increased 26 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $123.14 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The European benchmark contract’s premium to New York-traded West Texas Intermediate was at $20, up from $19.86 on March 30, the most since Oct. 24.
The Purchasing Managers’ Index rose to 53.1 last month, China’s logistics federation and the National Bureau of Statistics said. The gauge has a pattern of rising each March. In contrast, a PMI from HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics showed manufacturing contracting and export orders falling.
Payrolls in the U.S., the world’s biggest crude consumer, probably increased in March for a fourth consecutive month, economists surveyed by Bloomberg News said before an April 6 report from the Labor Department. Employment rose by 205,000 after climbing by 227,000 in February, the survey shows.
Oil has gained this year on speculation Western sanctions aimed at halting Iran’s nuclear program will disrupt Middle East shipments. Obama cleared the way for sanctions aimed at banks in countries that import Iranian oil, according to a memorandum released by the White House last week. The law allows banks that settle petroleum-related transactions through Iran’s central bank to be cut off from the U.S. banking system.
Hedge funds and other large speculators decreased bullish oil wagers by 6,460, or 2.6 percent, to 241,367 contracts in the seven days ended March 27, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Commitments of Traders report on March 30.
Oil output in March from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries climbed to the highest level in more than three years, led by a Libyan production gain, a Bloomberg News survey showed on March 30.
Production increased 110,000 barrels, or 0.4 percent, to an average 31.22 million barrels a day in March from a revised 31.11 million in February, according to the survey of oil companies, producers and analysts. Output increased to the highest level since October 2008. The February total was revised 55,000 barrels a day higher. Iranian production fell to the lowest level in almost 10 years.
South Korea, the world’s fifth-largest oil importer, purchased 8.6 percent less crude last month. Imports fell to 73.2 million barrels from 80.1 million a year earlier, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.
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