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Hint at US crude exports drives oil prices higher

Oil prices rose on Tuesday after the top US energy official suggested the United States could possibly move to ease its ban on crude exports.

NEW YORK: Oil prices rose on Tuesday after the top US energy official suggested the United States could possibly move to ease its ban on crude exports.

The New York benchmark West Texas Intermediate for June delivery rose $1.11 to $101.70 a barrel.

In London Brent oil for June delivery advanced 83 cents to $109.24 a barrel in London.

WTI jumped on electronic exchanges early Tuesday after Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz told reporters in South Korea that the US is reviewing its longstanding ban on exports, though without saying what options were being weighed.

"The issue of crude oil exports is under consideration... A driver for this consideration is that the nature of the oil we're producing may not be well matched to our current refinery capacity," Moniz said in reported remarks confirmed by his office.

With US commercial crude stockpiles running near record levels and producers agitating for a removal of the export ban, that statement quickly boosted prices.

"That's the first time that somebody at that level ... has said anything in regards to it specifically," said Carl Larry, analyst at Oil Outlooks and Opinion.

"We've never been at this point before in our history."

The issue still faces debate, with resistance especially from refiners and others who could suffer if the export of crude pushes prices higher.

Tuesday's rise is "just a knee-jerk reaction to something that could change over the longer-term," said Matt Smith, an analyst at Schneider Electric.

Smith said oil-market sentiment also gained strength from the continued conflict in Ukraine and anticipation of Wednesday's US oil inventory report, which is expected to show another decline at the closely-watched Cushing, Oklahoma trading hub.

The market "overlooked" weak economic data in China and Europe due to the focus on "export news and geopolitical tensions," Smith said.

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