Tokyo - Oil prices held above $100 in Asian trade on Monday, cheered by a surge in bank lending in China, the world's top energy consumer.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for March delivery, rose 18 cents to $100.48 in late morning trade, while Brent North Sea crude for April eased 11 cents to $108.97.

“China's credit news showed that the credit increased and that there is still growth there. Maybe it is not as fast but it is still moving along,” Kelly Teoh, market strategist at IG markets in Singapore, told AFP.

Loans by Chinese banks reached around 1.3 trillion yuan ($216 billion) in January, up 246.9 billion yuan from the same month a year ago, the People's Bank of China said at the weekend.

In December, banks granted just 482.5 billion yuan in new loans, previous figures showed.

The January lending figure beat analyst estimates.

Phillip Futures said in a market commentary that extremely cold weather in the United States is helping push oil prices higher due to stronger demand for heating fuels.

“This benefited crude oil as a feedstock to heating fuels,” it said.

Phillip Futures also said that Brent was coming under pressure from increased production in Libya.

Investors will also be focusing on banking giant HSBC's purchasing manager's index (PMI) data for February from China due to be released on Thursday for clues on the health of the world's second biggest economy, Teoh of IG Markets said.

The January PMI figures showed China's key manufacturing sector contracted for the first time in six months. - AFP