US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for October delivery gained 22 cents to $46.16 while Brent crude for October rose 24 cents to $49.76 in late-morning trade.
“We are seeing trading volumes for oil futures down a third than on average. The market seems to have shrugged off the weak Chinese trade data and is now looking beyond that for cues,” Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at IG Markets in Sydney, told AFP.
“We might see some movement next depending on how the US stockpile numbers turn out,” he said.
China said Tuesday its exports fell 5.5 percent year-on-year in August while imports plunged 13.8 percent, led by falling commodity prices, adding to worries about the strength of the world’s number two economy and top energy consumer.
The slowdown Chinese growth, as well as a slew of other weak indicators, have sent panic through world markets, as the country is a key driver of global expansion.
In the United States, the Department of Energy will release its weekly petroleum report on Thursday, a day later than usual owing to the Labor Day holiday on Monday.
US crude reserves likely rose by 250,000 barrels in the week to September 4, according to a Bloomberg News survey of analysts. An increase in stockpiles usually points towards weaker demand.
Dealers had been hoping that an uptick in US demand, coupled with a slowdown in output, could whittle down the huge global supplies that were a key reason for the collapse in prices from around $120 in June last year.