Oil prices rally to highest level

07/02/2014 10:11 AST

Oil rallied yesterday to the highest level so far this year, propelled by the weak dollar, upbeat jobless claims data and strong heating fuel demand in the United States.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in March jumped as high as $98.83 per barrel. It later stood at $98.16, up 78 cents from Wednesday.

Brent North Sea crude for March rose 58 cents to stand at $106.83 a barrel in afternoon London deals.

The oil market extended gains after US data showed weekly new claims for unemployment insurance fell to 331,000 from 351,000 the previous week.

The bright data weighed on the greenback, which makes dollar-priced crude cheaper for buyers using stronger currencies. That tends to boost demand and prices.

Crude futures also won solid support on stronger demand for heating fuel in the United States as the country grapples with severe winter, dealers said.

The oil market had risen on Wednesday after a closely-watched US oil inventories report suggested severe winter weather across large parts of the country was pushing up demand for heating oil.

Stockpiles at the trading hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, sank 1.5 million barrels, the Department of Energy said on Wednesday, indicating strong demand and lifting oil prices. US commercial crude reserves rose 400,000 barrels in the week ending January 31, the DoE added, much smaller than the average analyst estimate of 2.2

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