Oil prices steady as positive China economic data offset by calming effect of Gaza cease-fire

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LONDON - Early gains in the price of oil following positive Chinese manufacturing figures were offset Thursday by the calming effect of the ceasefire in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for January delivery was down 11 cents to US$87.27 per barrel by midday London in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 63 cents to finish at US$87.38 a barrel on Wednesday.

Earlier Thursday, oil prices edged higher following a Chinese manufacturing survey from HSBC. Its monthly Purchasing Managers' Index for November rose to 50.4 on a 100-point scale on which numbers over 50 indicate expansion. That was a moderate improvement from October's 49.5 and boosted hopes that growth in the world's No. 2 economy was holding up.

However, as the day wore on, oil prices eased amid signs that the ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas was holding. That has reduced fears of an escalation that could have disrupted oil supplies from the Middle East.

Trading has been subdued as U.S. markets are closed for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell 21 cents to US$110.65 a barrel in London.

In other energy futures trading in New York, heating oil rose one cent to US$3.07 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litres), wholesale gasoline added 2.1 cents to US$2.709 a gallon and natural gas gained one cent to $4.03 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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