Oil rises above US$100 as Energy Department data shows fuel demand improving

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The price of oil rose above US$100 a barrel for the first time in a week Wednesday on signs of increased demand for petroleum products.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for April delivery gained 67 cents to close at US$100.37 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The April contract expires Thursday and the more heavily-traded May contract rose 29 cents to US$99.17.

The Energy Department said that demand for gasoline rose 1.5 per cent over the four-week period ended March 14, compared with the same period last year.

And supplies of distillates, which include heating oil and diesel, fell by 3.1 million barrels, more than three times the decline analysts had been expecting. Both figures were seen as signs of strengthening demand.

Oil also got a boost from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to further reduce bond purchases aimed at stimulating economic growth. Traders saw that as a sign the Fed is more confident the U.S. economy can grow on its own.

Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties, fell 94 cents to US$105.85 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex, wholesale gasoline fell three cents to US$2.87 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litres), heating oil lost one cent to US$2.90 a gallon and natural gas added three cents to US$4.48 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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