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U.S. oil prices rise as Bakken crude rail shipments fall

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[March 01, 2014]  By Elizabeth Dilts

NEW YORK, Feb 28 (Reuters) - U.S. oil on Friday had its eighth straight week of gains on market talk of fewer oil rail shipments from the booming Bakken shale in North Dakota.

Brent oil settled moderately higher but ended the week lower, weighed down by an outlook for dampening demand in China and another for stymied European growth due to uprisings in Ukraine.

Crude oil loadings at a dozen major North Dakota rail terminals fell by more than 200,000 barrels on average in the past two days to 345,000 barrels, data from industry intelligence provider Genscape showed on Friday.

The U.S. Department of Transportation knocked down market chatter that new rules requiring shippers to test all crude before it is carried by train led to a shutdown at the Bakken oilfield terminals, calling it a "rumor."

Nonetheless, U.S. crude oil spiked by as much as 60 cents by 10:35 a.m. EST, but pared gains to settle 19 cents higher at $102.59 a barrel. U.S. oil ended the week less than 1 percent higher.

Brent crude rose 11 cents to $109.07 a barrel and settled less than 1 percent lower on the week.

U.S. gasoline for March delivery expired nearly 3 cents higher to $2.7898 per gallon. The April contract, which will become the front-month on Monday, rose 1.69 cents to $2.9774.

The New York ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) March contract , commonly known as heating oil, expired .28 cents higher to $3.0893 per gallon. The April contract rose .63 cents to settle at $3.0163 per gallon.

Oil on both sides of Atlantic may be due for a deeper price correction as more U.S. and European refiners enter maintenance and demand for crude wanes, said Stephen Schork, editor of the energy newsletter The Schork Report in Villanova, Pennsylvania.

"It's still the time of year for peak (refinery) turnaround season," Schork said, adding the market has been at its highest range in four months.

Exxon Mobil Corp said on Friday it shut a sulfur recovery unit for planned maintenance lasting several weeks at its 149,500-barrel-per-day refinery in Torrance, California.

Lower estimates for U.S. gross domestic product also capped gains in oil.

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The U.S. Commerce Department reported Friday that GDP expanded at a 2.4 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, down sharply from the 3.2 percent pace reported last month and shy of analyst expectations, according to a Reuters poll.

Meanwhile, violence in Ukraine's Crimea region also dampened investor risk appetite in Europe, as armed men described by the Ukraine government as Moscow forces took control of two airports on Friday.

Worries over China, the world's second-largest oil consumer, also curbed gains in oil. China's yuan suffered its biggest weekly loss on record on Friday, adding to global investor apprehension about China's slowing economy, high levels of local government debt and an increasingly risky shadow banking system.

Money managers cut their net long U.S. crude oil futures and options positions in the week to Tuesday from a record high last week, data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed.

(Additional reporting by Shadi Bushra and Alex Lawler in London and Manash Goswami in Singapore; Editing by Jason Neely, Chris Reese and Amanda Kwan)

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