Brent crude oil prices have increased towards $50 a barrel following a fall in US crude oil inventory.

Prices gained strength from larger draw down of crude stocks, which overshadowed the weak economic activity data from China.

Benchmark Brent increased 55 cents a barrel at $49.63, while the US light crude rose 50 cents at $46.86, Reuters reported.

Data published by the American Petroleum Institute (API) showed a fall in US crude stockpiles by 3.7 million barrels for the week ending 18 September.

"Data published by the API showed a fall in US crude stockpiles by 3.7 million barrels for the week ending 18 September."

Inventories were also almost down 500,000 barrels at the Cushing, Oklahoma.

Data on US industry helped oil oppose the negative impact of a contraction in Chinese manufacturing activity.

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According to a private survey, China’s factory sector is getting into its sharpest contraction in 6.5 years due to flagging demand.

Analysts said oil prices that have been depressed for more than a year are expected to recover, particularly if official US Government figures confirm that the oil market is tightening in the country.

Investors are watching for the data to be released by the US Government’s Energy Information Administration.

Oil consultancy Energy Aspects expects an increase in global crude demand for the second half of the year at only one million barrels per day (bpd).