Brent for May delivery posted a 4-cent gain to settle at $107.03 a
barrel, while U.S. crude, known as West Texas Intermediate or WTI,
rose $1.07 to settle at $100.26 a barrel.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported the eighth
straight weekly draw in oil stocks at the contract's delivery point
in Cushing, Oklahoma.
The 1.3-million-barrel draw at Cushing was larger than that reported
by industry group the American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday, and
overshadowed a larger-than-expected 6.6 million-barrel build in
crude stocks nationally. Most of the build occurred in the Gulf
Coast, home to nearly half of U.S. refining capacity.
"It's kind of eye-opening to see the build in the Gulf Coast, and it
will offset the benefit of the Cushing draw," said Tariq Zahir at
Tyche Capital Advisors in New York.
U.S. crude surged ahead of the trading session's close as it gyrated
higher towards its 200-day moving average of $100.39 per barrel.
"The market's held pretty well all day, and we're right around the
200-day, so there was gravitation towards that," said Bill Baruch,
senior market strategist at iitrader.com in Chicago, Illinois.
Analysts said uncertainty around ongoing delays in the Houston Ship
Channel, a key waterway for supplying Gulf Coast refiners with crude
oil shipments, was reflected in an unenthusiastic market.
WTI could face pressure from higher oil imports in the coming days
as the Houston Shipping Channel gradually reopens following an oil
spill on Saturday.
"Because the situation in the Houston Ship Channel is playing havoc
with these inventories, it's going to be really difficult to get a
handle on where we're at, and the market's having a hard time
playing that," said Phil Flynn, an energy analyst at the Price
Futures Group in Chicago, Illinois.
"I'm not seeing a lot of passion behind any of these moves."
[to top of second column]
The spread between the two crude oil benchmarks <CL-LCO1=R> narrowed
by over $1 to settle at $6.77, from Tuesday's close of $7.80, and in
from a session-high of $8.03.
Leaders of the Group of Seven major industrial powers decided this
week to hold off on sanctions unless Moscow takes further action to
destabilize Ukraine or other former Soviet republics.
On Wednesday, the United States and the European Union agreed to
work together to prepare possible tougher economic sanctions on
Russia, including in the energy sector, and to make Europe less
dependent on Russian gas.
Royal Dutch Shell declared force majeure on Nigeria's Forcados crude
exports on Tuesday due to a pipeline leak caused by oil theft, while
Libyan output fell by about 80,000 barrels per day to around 150,000
bpd after the closure of a large oilfield.
Shell has not said when repairs would be completed but that it would
reopen the export line as soon as possible. Nigeria's exports of
crude oil in May look set to fall to 1.53 million bpd, their lowest
since records began in 2009, a partial loading program indicated on
U.S. durable goods orders rose 2.2 percent in February, topping
expectations for a 1 percent rise, and boosting the outlook for the
world's largest economy.
(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Dilts in
New York, David Sheppard in London, Keith Wallis in Singapore and
Erwin Seba in Houston; editing by William Hardy and David Gregorio
and Marguerita Choy)
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