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US oil rises after stockpiles report points to demand

Global oil prices rose on Wednesday, with US prices gaining a boost from a bullish stockpiles report and another wintry blast of cold hitting the country.

NEW YORK: Global oil prices rose on Wednesday, with US prices gaining a boost from a bullish stockpiles report and another wintry blast of cold hitting the country.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in April, gained 76 cents over the session, closing at $102.59 a barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for April ticked up one cent to settle at $109.52 in London trade.

The US Department of Energy's weekly petroleum stockpiles report lifted New York crude prices in morning trade, with its details pointing to potential improvement in demand in the world's largest crude-oil consumer.

Commercial crude oil supplies rose only by 100,000 barrels last week, one-eighth of what analysts expected.

And supplies at the Cushing, Oklahoma, depot, which serve as a reference for WTI, fell by 1.1 million barrels, supporting prices, said Andy Lipow of Lipow Oil Associates.

The opening of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, bringing oil from Cushing to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas, has eased a buildup of WTI at the hub.

"Higher refineries' runs... are keeping US inventories under control," Lipow said.

The difference between WTI and Brent prices has narrowed since Monday to levels not seen for months. At Wednesday's Brent close, the spread stood at $6.93, its lowest gap since October.

The DoE also reported a tick higher last week in distillate stocks, which include heating oil, by 300,000 barrels. Although the increase ended six straight weeks of declines, the level remained 9.0 percent lower than a year ago as large parts of the country have been hammered by severe winter cold.

Lipow predicted the distillate market would continue to be supported by the cold weather "which is expected to continue for the next 10 days."

Political unrest in oil-producing Venezuela, as well as in Libya and South Sudan, was still underpinning the market, analysts said.

"The market is concerned about supply disruption in Venezuela," Lipow said.

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