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Crude ends mixed; WTI ekes out gain as sell-off overshoots

A floor hand for Raven Drilling, works on an oil rig drilling into the Bakken shale formation outside Watford City, N.D.
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A floor hand for Raven Drilling, works on an oil rig drilling into the Bakken shale formation outside Watford City, N.D.

U.S. oil futures recouped losses in choppy trade on Thursday while European Brent crude slid, as traders bet that an abrupt slump earlier this week in the hotly traded Brent-WTI spread had gone too far.

U.S. gasoline prices led the oil complex higher, rebounding from near their lowest since June 2012 after an overnight fire shut down a key refinery near Chicago. Although fuel stocks are relatively high, the unplanned outage threatens to tighten supplies at a time when many refineries are shut for work.

Dealers were also focused on ructions in the spread between U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent futures, which hit a six-month high of more than $13 a barrel midday on Wednesday before snapping back to around $10 on Thursday.

The U.S. crude oil benchmark snapped three sessions of losses and ended the day 25 cents higher at $97.11 a barrel, after touching a four-month low of $95.95.

Brent crude ended 81 cents lower to $106.99 a barrel, a fresh two-month settlement low. Brent's premium over U.S. oil narrowed by as much as $1.13 per barrel to $9.81, in intraday trade, almost touching the 200-day moving average of $9.77. It settled at $9.88.

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