* Strong PMI numbers from U.S, Europe boost economic outlook
* Iran nuclear talks in focus, set for Feb. 26
* ECB meeting outcome, China trade data awaited
* Coming up: EIA petroleum statistics at 1530 GMT
By Ramya Venugopal
SINGAPORE, Feb 6 Brent crude futures held above
$116 per barrel on Wednesday after positive economic data from
the United States and Europe bolstered the view that the global
economy is on the mend.
The vast U.S. services sector extended a three-year run of
growth, boosting riskier assets, while data showing signs of
recovery in Europe's business activity also helped calm nerves
jarred by fears a potential political turmoil would derail the
region's efforts to resolve its debt crisis.
"The markets are now more optimistic about the world
economy, so oil prices are heading up, but gradually," said Ken
Hasegawa, a commodity sales manager at Newedge in Tokyo.
Brent rose 11 cents to $116.63 per barrel at 0402
GMT, extending its gains from the previous session when it hit a
more than four-month high.
U.S. crude shed 3 cents to trade at $96.61.
Brent may test $120 per barrel this month, while U.S. oil
may remain under a little pressure, added Hasegawa.
U.S. crude has dropped more than a percent so far this week,
versus a mostly steady Brent, as concerns about excess supply at
Cushing, Oklahoma -- delivery point for the U.S. contract --
weigh on the benchmark.
Brent on the other hand has been supported by an expected
shortfall in March supply of the four North Sea crude oil grades
that underpin the futures contract.
EURO ZONE OPTIMISM
The crisis-ridden euro zone economy appeared to have turned
a corner based on data this week.
Markit's Eurozone Composite PMI, based on business activity
across thousands of companies, and a good gauge of economic
growth, rose in January to a 10-month high of 48.6 from 47.2 in
While still below the 50 mark that divides growth and
contraction, where it has been since February last year, it has
risen for the third straight month.
But there were some troubling signs as well. The data from
Germany was strong while France lagged even troubled nations
such as Spain and Italy, which means the region as a whole may
not be progressing as indicated by the data.
"Concerns over Europe appear to have eased, although
problems in the region are still a long way from being resolved
and fiscal austerity measures will continue to contribute to
soft energy demand throughout 2013," National Australia Bank
analysts wrote in a report.
Investors will now be looking out for the European Central
Bank's meeting on Thursday and China's trade numbers due on
Friday for more clues on the health of the global economy and
what it may mean for commodities demand.
U.S. crude inventory data will also be on the radar.
Analysts estimated that U.S. commercial crude oil stockpiles
rose last week on higher imports and lower refining activity.
Data from the American Petroleum Institute showed that crude
stockpiles rose by 3.6 million barrels last week, more than the
2.8 million barrel rise that analysts had forecast.
Weekly inventory report from the U.S. Department of Energy's
Energy Information Administration is scheduled for release later
in the day.
The oil markets were monitoring developments in the Middle
East, where sanctions-hit Iran has taken delivery of several new
tankers from Chinese shipyards, giving it more flexibility to
Iran and world powers announced new talks on Tehran's
nuclear program on Feb. 26, but hopes of progress were tempered
when an Iranian official said the West's goal in talking was to
undermine the Islamic republic.
(Editing by Himani Sarkar)