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Oil Prices Jump on Strong China Crude Imports

Crude-oil prices climbed in early Asian trade Monday as the market honed in on China’s strong crude imports last month, despite Saudi Arabia’s unexpected removal of its long-serving oil minister Ali al-Naimi.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light, sweet crude futures for delivery in June traded at $45.54 a barrel at 0038 GMT, up $0.88 in the Globex electronic session. July Brent crude on London’s ICE Futures exchange rose $0.72 to $46.09 a barrel.

China’s crude imports rose 7.6% on year last month, the third straight month that crude imports surpassed 30 million barrels. On a daily basis, China shipped in 7.9 million barrels a day in April.

In the first four months of the year, China imported 123.67 million tons of crude, equivalent to a 12% on-year rise.

The strong flow of foreign crude is heavily supported by the rising number of local refineries, known as teapots, that have been allowed to import crude directly from a foreign source since less than a year ago.

“This is giving the market hope that China’s...