Benchmark oil price rises above $102 per barrel

By CHRIS KAHN | January 10, 2012 | 10:45 AM EST

NEW YORK (AP) — Oil prices are higher on expectations that China's economy — and its appetite for petroleum — will continue to grow in 2012.

Benchmark crude rose by $1.32 to $102.63 per barrel in New York. Brent crude increased by 74 cents to $113.19 per barrel in London.

Prices climbed after China said oil imports grew 6 percent in December, when compared to a year earlier. Aluminum maker Alcoa Inc. also says it expects demand to rise this year in China.

Investors were also reassured after credit ratings agency Fitch Ratings said it won't downgrade France this year. A downgrade would have made it more expensive for France to raise cash to deal with the region's debt crisis.

U.S. gas pump prices are unchanged at a national average of $3.37 per gallon.