Oil prices mixed in Asia

Oil was mixed in Asia today with some traders taking profits after stronger-than-expected trade data out of China, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in February, gained 10 cents to USD 93.92 a barrel in morning trade while Brent North Sea crude for February dropped 18 cents to USD 111.71.

"We're seeing some profit-taking... after the ticking up of oil prices yesterday," said Jason Hughes, the head of premium client management at IG Markets in Singapore. Crude prices hit three-month highs yesterday after a surge in China's trade surplus sparked hopes that the world's second-largest economy and biggest energy user was firing up again.

China's trade surplus soared 48.1 per cent to USD 231.1 billion in 2012, though total trade volume grew at a much slower pace in the face of economic weakness at home and abroad, official data showed yesterday.

The country's exports rose 7.9 per cent to USD 2.05 trillion from the year before, while imports increased 4.3 per cent to USD 1.82 trillion, the national customs bureau said.

News of a crude production cut by the world's top oil exporter Saudi Arabia also supported prices, Phillip Futures said in a report.

The country slashed oil production by 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) to nine million bpd during the last two months of 2012, the report stated.

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