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Oil Prices Rise On China Economic Report

Oil prices rose Tuesday on signs that China, the world’s second-largest economy, may avoid a significant slowdown.

China said its economy grew by 8.9 percent in the fourth quarter, which was slower than the previous quarter. Experts say that level is still robust. Retail and factory production improved in December. Oil demand increased 1.4 percent in the fourth quarter from a year ago and was up 6.4 percent in 2011 from 2010, according to data cited by Barclays Capital.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.86 to $100.56 per barrel in afternoon trading in New York. Brent crude fell 18 cents to $111.16 a barrel in London.

China is the world’s second-largest oil consumer after the U.S. It is also one of the biggest importers of commodities and raw materials, so its economic growth can affect countries that provide crude oil and raw materials such as iron ore, copper and soybeans.

China’s growth slowed last year as the government imposed a number of measures to control inflation and prevent the economy from overheating.

Elsewhere natural gas prices were at a 10-year low as mild winter weather in many parts of the U.S. kept thermostats turned down. The National Weather Service and other forecasters see above-average temperatures persisting for at least the next few weeks. The nation’s natural gas supplies remain well above the five-year average.

Natural gas fell 20 cents, or 7.5 percent to $2.47 per 1,000 cubic feet in New York. That price is down 17 percent for the month and 44 percent lower than a year ago.

In other trading, heating oil rose about a penny to $3.03 per gallon and gasoline futures rose 3 cents to $2.77 per gallon.

At the pump AAA said the national average for retail gas in the U.S. on Tuesday was $3.38 per gallon. That’s 15 cents more than a month ago and almost 29 cents more than a year ago.

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