Oil prices rose today as Middle East tensions increased, prompting supply concerns, although further gains were restricted as a result of discouraging data from China.

Brent crude increased by 27 cents to $115.82 a barrel, while US crude rose by eight cents to $97.57, reported Reuters.

On Thursday, Syria staged its protest to the United Nations and also warned of a possible sudden attack in response to an Israeli air strike on its land.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a request to both Iran and Russia to consider their support for Syria.

On the other hand, apprehensions over Iran’s uranium enrichment programme remained, after the country delivered a plan to the UN nuclear agency to upgrade its refining equipment.

China’s official purchasing managers’ index (PMI) influenced oil markets after it failed to match market forecasts, indicating that the world’s second largest oil consumer is only making a minor improvement from its weakest year since 1999.

"China’s official purchasing managers’ index (PMI) influenced oil markets after it failed to match market forecasts."

A private survey on China, however, offered support to prices earlier in the week when it indicated that the manufacturing sector in the country achieved a two-year high in January, raising hopes that domestic demand, rather than exports, will drive a rebound.

Investors are now keeping a close eye on nonfarm payroll data from the US, which is expected to be released today, to get further indications on improvements in the global economy and hint on the rise of slow fuel demand.

The data is expected to show an increase of 160,000 jobs and a stable unemployment rate, the news agency reported.

Concerns over increasing crude stockpiles in the US Midwest and the Seaway pipeline operator’s announcement have widened the spread between Brent and US crude by 19 cents to minus $18.25.

The announcement indicated that the lateral pipeline from Jones Creek terminal in Texas would only be completed in the second half of 2013.

Image: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Photo courtesy of Marc Nozell from Merrimack, New Hampshire, US.

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