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Price of oil edges upwards for fifth consecutive day on demand hopes

AP--The price of oil edged up Friday for a fifth day in a row on expectations for increased demand.

Benchmark U.S. crude for March delivery was up 22 cents to US$97.54 a barrel at 0620 GMT in electronic trading on the U.S. Mercantile Exchange. Oil rose 59 cents to US$97.32 on Thursday.

On Thursday, preliminary results of HSBC's January survey of Chinese factory purchasing managers indicated a contraction in manufacturing for the first time since July. Despite the disappointing China data, the severe cold spell in parts of the U.S. and higher forecasts for global economic growth boosted the outlook for oil demand.

Natural gas has skyrocketed to record prices of more than US$100 per 1,000 cubic feet on the spot market in some U.S. regions. The increased demand is also reflected in a less severe rise in prices for natural gas futures.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil, was up 13 cents to US$107.71 a barrel on the ICE exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline inched up 0.3 cent to US$2.673 a gallon.

— Heating oil added 0.4 cent to US$2.995 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 14.4 cents to US$4.874 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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