NEW YORK (AP) _ Oil prices have moved higher on a surge of buying in heating oil.

Trading on the oil futures market Wednesday focused on the near-term contracts for wholesale heating oil, which gained 0.81 cent to 55.67 cents a gallon, and wholesale unleaded gasoline, which lost 0.34 cent to 48.29 cents.

The activity was prompted by weekly statistics from the American Petroleum Institute showing an increase in U.S. gasoline stocks and a drop in heating oil inventories, analysts said.

The divergence prompted futures traders to buy heating oil contracts and sell gasoline, said Bob Baker, an analyst for Prudential-Bache Securities Inc. Crude oil prices, tagging along with heating oil, showed a small gain.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, the January delivery price of West Texas Intermediate, the main U.S. crude oil, rose 10 cents per 42-gallon barrel to close at $18.56. Trading was described as quiet.

Analysts said there was no significant news from the 13-nation Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries that affected trading. OPEC nations will meet on price and production issues next week in Vienna, Austria.