Oil extends rally after best week since 2011

[SINGAPORE] Oil prices jumped on Monday as falling US oil rig counts and conflict in producer Libya helped stretch a rally from last week when crude surged the most since 2011.

Brent crude for March delivery was up 1.3 per cent at US$58.57 a barrel by 0003 GMT after rising as high as US$59.06 earlier in the session.

The crude benchmark gained more than 9 per cent last week, its biggest weekly rise since February 2011. Brent has climbed more than 18 per cent in the past two weeks, its best such showing since 1998.

US crude was up 2 per cent at US$52.74 a barrel, after hitting a session high of US$53.40.

The number of rigs drilling for oil in the United States fell by 83 this week to 1,140 - the lowest since December 2011 - a survey showed on Friday, a clear sign of the pressure that tumbling crude prices have put on oil producers.

Stronger-than-expected growth in US jobs in January helped spur the rally on Friday, as nonfarm payrolls increased 257,000, outstripping Wall Street forecasts.

The sustained gains in oil prices came even as weekend data showed further economic weakness in China, the world's No. 2 oil consumer.

China's trade performance slumped in January, with exports falling 3.3 per cent from year-ago levels while imports tumbled 19.9 per cent, far worse than analysts had expected and highlighting a deepening slowdown.

Elsewhere, a strike by security guards has closed Libya's eastern oil port of Hariga, the country's last functioning export port apart from two offshore fields, a port official said on Sunday.


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