Oil Rises for First Time in 8 Sessions

Oil prices rose on Wednesday as positive Chinese trade data and an unexpected draw in weekly U.S. crude oil inventories gave investors reasons to buy crude futures.

Brent crude, the global benchmark, was up 63 cents at 31.49 dollars a barrel.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) was up 69 cents at 31.13 dollars a barrel.

"The API inventory data triggered a profit-taking wave, that's the main reason for this uptick," said Hans van Cleef, senior energy economist at ABN Amro in Amsterdam.

"But the overall sentiment is still negative, meaning downside risk is still greater than upside potential."

U.S. crude stocks fell unexpectedly last week, data from industry group, the American Petroleum Institute showed on Tuesday.

China reported exports dipped just 1.4 per cent in U.S. dollar terms in December, compared to forecasts of an eight per cent drop, positively surprising world markets.

The world's second-biggest oil consumer has also been taking advantage of the oil price rout to stock reserves, increase exports of refined products, and may be set to overtake the United States as the world's largest importer.

But the bearish outlook for oil remains.

The potential for calling of an emergency OPEC meeting also weakened on Wednesday when Iran's oil minister was said to have said he had not received any request for such gathering.

Nigeria's oil minister said on Tuesday that a "couple" of OPEC members had asked for an emergency meeting.

Days ahead of the expected implementation of a landmark nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers, Iran briefly detained a group of U.S. sailors after they entered Iranian waters.

Iran released the sailors on Wednesday after holding them overnight, determining they had entered Iranian waters by mistake.