The euro reached a one-week high against the U.S. dollar on the back
of the European Central Bank's announcement that it would leave its
main interest rate unchanged.
A 24-hour strike in France blocked the oil hub of Fos-Lavera and cut
into supply there.
The four North Sea benchmark crudes that underpin the Brent oil
futures contract are set to load fewer barrels in March, tightening
U.S. crude oil futures rose but only after giving back nearly half
of their gains on news that U.S. refiners were moving into their
Citgo Petroleum Corp began a shutdown at its refinery in Corpus
Christi, Texas, for maintenance planned to last about 35 days.
U.S. crude fell nearly 60 cents on the news.
"We're in peak (refinery) turnaround season now, which translates
into weak demand," said Stephen Schork, editor of the Schork Report
in Villanova, Pennsylvania.
U.S. crude settled 46 cents higher at $97.84 a barrel, widening its
discount to Brent <CL-LCO1=R> by 48 cents to $9.35 a barrel. On
Wednesday, the spread narrowed to $7.94 per barrel, the tightest it
has been since Oct. 10.
U.S. crude was supported by strong U.S. economic data released
Thursday morning and rising U.S. gasoline futures.
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits
fell slightly more than expected last week, according to the U.S.
U.S. gasoline prices rose more than 1 percent on the back of rising
Renewable Identification Number prices and a seasonal selloff in
heating oil as traders move to gasoline futures ahead of the summer
[to top of second column]
U.S. crude also drew support from snow and ice storms in the U.S.
Northeast, which boosted demand for heating fuels.
In spite of cold weather demand, U.S. ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD)
traded half a cent higher to end the day at $2.9951 per gallon.
U.S. gasoline futures rose by more than 4 cents to settle at $2.6830
per gallon as traders bought contracts to cover short positions.
"There are a couple seasonal long trades in gasoline — the first in
December and the second in January," said Bill Baruch, senior market
strategist at futures trading website iitrader.com in Chicago.
"There are now shorts in the market as all the energies rise, and
now they're buying to close their position."
Traders on Friday will be awaiting the release of U.S. non-farm
payrolls data, considered by many the No. 1 gauge of the labor
market and the American economy, at 8:30 a.m. EST (1330 GMT).
(Additional reporting by David Sheppard
in London and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Singapore; editing by Dale
Hudson, David Evans, Peter Galloway, David Gregorio and Jonathan Oatis)
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