Oil prices neared $82 a barrel today after China said imports surged in February, endorsing the expectation that emerging Asian economies will lead global demand back into growth this year.

For April delivery, US crude rose 10¢ to $81.59 by 11:50pm EST, while London ICE Brent gained 16¢ to $80.07, reports Reuters.

China’s crude imports rose by 8.2% to 18.5 million tonnes in January compared with the previous month, fuel imports rose by almost 14%, while fuel exports fell by 41%.

According to American Petroleum Institute data, crude inventories rose by 6.5 million barrels in the week ending 5 March against forecasts for an increase of 1.9 million barrels.

US petrol stockpiles fell 3.2 million barrels, against expectations of a 200,000 barrels gain.

Inventories of distillates showed a 2.8 million barrel draw compared with forecasts for a 900,000 barrel draw.