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Oil edges up ahead of U.S. central bank meeting

BANGKOK (AP) — Oil prices edged up Tuesday despite growing uncertainty about the strength of China's economic recovery as investors looked to the Federal Reserve to implement new measures to help the U.S. economy.

Benchmark crude for January delivery was up 23 cents to $85.80 per barrel at late afternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 37 cents to close at $85.56 per barrel on the Nymex on Monday.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, was up 33 cents per barrel to $107.66 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

The Fed, which begins a two-day policy meeting later Tuesday, is widely expected to say it will start buying more long-term Treasurys to replace a program that expires at year's end.

Under the expiring "Operation Twist" program, the Fed has sold short-term Treasurys and used the proceeds to buy $45 billion a month in long-term Treasurys, which is a way of "twisting" long-term rates lower, relative to short-term rates.

Meanwhile, an abrupt fall in China's export growth and slowing import growth suggests that the recovery in the world's No. 2 economy is faltering, analysts at Capital Economics said in a report.

The data "have added to our doubts about the strength and sustainability of China's rebound," the report said. "The weekend's figures on investment, retail sales and industrial production were more encouraging but they underlined that recent strength has been driven by infrastructure spending rather than a broad-based pick-up across the economy."

Markets are also awaiting this week's meeting in Vienna of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which produces about a third of the world's oil supply.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Heating oil rose 1.5 cents at $2.912 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 1.6 cents to $3.444 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Wholesale gasoline rose 0.7 cents to $2.605 a gallon.