Oil rises above $83 amid strong China demand

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SINGAPORE (AP) — Oil prices jumped above $83 a barrel Monday in Asia amid signs of strong Chinese demand for crude and rebel attacks on Nigerian supplies.

Benchmark crude for February delivery was up 80 cents to $83.55 a barrel at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Friday, the contract rose 9 cents to settle at $82.75.

China said Sunday that oil imports rose 14 percent last year to a record high in December, part of a 56 percent surge in overall imports last month. The better than expected Chinese figures helped investors brush off Friday’s disappointing U.S. jobless report, which showed the economy lost 85,000 jobs in December and the unemployment rate was steady at 10 percent.

Crude prices have spiked 20 percent in the last month as a rash of cold winter weather in parts of the U.S., Europe and Asia boost demand for oil products such as heating oil.

Supplies were also threatened in Nigeria, where unidentified gunmen attacked a Chevron Corp. crude oil pipeline, cutting production by 20,000 barrels a day, a company spokesman said Saturday.

In other Nymex trading in February contracts, heating oil rose 2.28 cents to $2.22 a gallon and gasoline gained 1.97 cents to $2.18 a gallon. Natural gas futures were down 16.4 cents to $5.59.

In London, Brent crude for February delivery rose 69 cents to $82.06 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.