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Oil rises as U.S., China manufacturing improves

BANGKOK (AP) — The price of oil rose Tuesday, boosted by improvements in manufacturing in the world's two largest economies.

Benchmark oil for March delivery was up 29 cents to $96.73 per barrel at late afternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 56 cents to finish at $96.44 a barrel on the Nymex on Monday.

On Monday, the U.S. reported that demand for long-lasting manufactured goods rose sharply in December. That comes on top of an improved housing picture and strong earnings by major companies. Many analysts think the economy's sluggish recovery will pick up stream by 2014.

China's manufacturing activity has also recently rebounded as the country emerges from its deepest slump since the 2008 global financial crisis. Analysts have all but stopped predicting that the world's No. 2 economy will have a "hard landing," or a sharp downturn.

"The news just appears to be positive and at this stage consistent with consensus or better on growth in the major economies, particularly in the U.S. and China," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.

It's a big week for U.S. economic indicators. The government will release reports on weekly jobless claims, unemployment and fourth-quarter growth. And the Federal Reserve's policy committee holds a two-day meeting that concludes on Wednesday.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell 9 cents to $113.39 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 1.4 cent to $2.927 per gallon.

— Natural gas fell 3.6 cents to $3.253 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Heating oil rose 0.2 cent to $3.053 a gallon.

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