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Crude oil futures inch toward $50 a barrel

SHARE Crude oil futures inch toward $50 a barrel

LONDON (AP) — Crude futures inched closer to $50 a barrel Tuesday, settling at their highest level in nearly two months, as traders reacted to reports of a refinery snag and rapid economic growth in China at a time when there is concern about instability in several oil producing nations.

Fears of disruptions to Iraqi oil infrastructure ahead of the upcoming elections and a potential oil-worker strike in Nigeria weighed heavily on the market as OPEC prepared to discuss its output this weekend.

Light sweet crude for March delivery was up 83 cents at $49.64 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil futures are now more than 40 percent higher than a year ago.

In London, Brent for March delivery was 95 cents higher at $46.96 a barrel on the International Petroleum Exchange.

"I think the main catalyst was the China GDP number, which was much higher than expected," said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Alaron Trading Corp. in Chicago. "You've got to remember that one of the biggest reasons the market rallied a year ago was because everybody underestimated China's oil demand."