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Oil up as China trade, U.S. earnings show recovery

The price of oil rose Thursday to above $94 a barrel, propelled by a rebound in China's trade growth and an encouraging start to the U.S. corporate earnings season.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for February delivery was up $1.04 to $94.14 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract slipped 5 cents to end at $93.10 per barrel in New York on Wednesday.

Data released Thursday showed China's export growth in December more than quadrupled from the previous month's level to 14 percent. Imports rose 6 percent, after failing to grow at all in November, in a sign of increasing domestic demand.

Analysts also pointed to an 8 percent year-on-year rise in China's imports of crude oil in December and a 6.8 percent increase for all of 2012. The data was a boost for energy prices, since a pickup in economic activity in the world's second-largest economy could boost demand for oil.

"China has thus underpinned its status as a key driver of global oil demand," said a report from Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

In the U.S., corporate reporting season began with better-than-expected results. That helped lift stock markets and energy prices followed.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, was up 89 cents to $112.65 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline added 2.32 cents at $2.8021 a gallon.

— Heating oil rose 2.99 cents to $3.0998 a gallon.

— Natural gas was up 1.8 cents to $3.131 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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