London (AFP) - Oil prices advanced Wednesday on upbeat Chinese data and after new Federal Reserve head Janet Yellen vowed to maintain US monetary policy.
New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for March, jumped to $100.69 per barrel -- the highest level since late last year.
It later stood at $100.59, up 65 cents from Tuesday's close.
Brent North Sea crude for delivery in March added 38 cents to stand at $109.06 a barrel in early afternoon deals.
"China imported record quantities of crude oil in January," said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch.
"Crude imports climbed to 6.63 million barrels, which is 12 percent up on the year-on-year figure.
"The figures point to surprisingly robust oil demand in China, which should allay concerns that the dynamism of demand is weakening. That said, the actual picture could have been distorted by purchases brought forward ahead of the Chinese New Year?s festival."
Oil also won ground after new US Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen said she would stick with its stimulus policy.
"Crude oil prices extended gains on Wednesday, supported by strong Chinese economic data and an optimistic US outlook from the Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen?s speech, which increased risk appetite," said Sucden analyst Myrto Sokou.
Yellen told Congress she expects to continue predecessor Ben Bernanke's plan to wind down its bond-buying gradually and keep interest rates low until the jobs market improves significantly.
Traders will later switch their attention to the latest weekly oil inventories report in the United States, which is the world's biggest crude consuming nation.