Oil prices edge higher

LONDON: Oil prices edged higher Tuesday as a weaker dollar offset disappointing manufacturing data out of top energy consumer China, traders said.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for delivery in May nudged up 11 cents to $47.56 a barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for May dipped five cents to stand at $55.97 in London afternoon deals.

The European single currency edged up slightly against the dollar, making crude priced in the US unit cheaper for holders of rival currency.

Putting downward pressure on oil was HSBC’s preliminary purchasing managers index of China’s manufacturing sector that showed a dip to a 11-month low of 49.2 in March, down from 50.7 in February.

The figure — a key indicator of the health of the Asian economic giant — missed the median estimate of a rise to 50.5 in a Bloomberg News survey. A reading above 50 indicates growth.

Nicholas Teo, market analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore, told AFP that dealers will next be focusing on a slew of US data due later in the week, including crude stockpiles, oil rig count and the final reading on fourth-quarter gross domestic product growth.

Friday’s GDP figures will be closely watched by the market “as investors try to make sense of somewhat conflicting data, with a pick-up in US unemployment and unflattering retail sales data”, Teo said.

Adding to price pressures, Saudi Arabia oil minister Ali al-Naimi on Sunday cited a recent increase in production, showing the OPEC kingpin remains committed to competing for market share.