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Oil bounces back above $100 a barrel on strong China imports, OPEC demand forecast

The price of oil rose above $100 a barrel Wednesday as OPEC predicted faster growth in oil demand this year and China reported record imports of crude oil. The gains were tempered by an increase in U.S. supplies.

Benchmark U.S. crude for March delivery rose 43 cents to $100.37 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil rose as high as $101.38 in morning trading.

Oil prices were boosted by data showing that China's imports of crude rose to 6.6 million barrels a day in January, up nearly 12 per cent from the same month last year and the highest figure on record. Meanwhile, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said global oil consumption should rise by 1.09 million barrels a day, an increase of 45,000 barrels a day from OPEC's previous prediction.

In the U.S., the Energy Department said oil supplies rose 3.3 million barrels last week, more than the 2.5 million barrel rise expected by analysts surveyed by Platts.

Brent crude, which is used to set prices for international varieties of crude, gained 11 cents to $108.79 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading in New York:

— Wholesale gasoline gained 1 cent to $2.76 a gallon.

— Heating oil fell 2 cents to $3.01 a gallon.

— Natural gas was flat at $4.82 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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