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Crude dips modestly after US data; WTI hangs in over $100

Crude oil prices slipped on Thursday, pressured by an expected dip in demand during the refinery maintenance season and a rise in jobless claims in the United States, the world's largest oil consumer.

The poor jobless data was compounded by weak U.S. retail sales data suggesting that consumers used their money toward heating fuel this year amid a record cold winter. The data pressured the U.S. stock market and weighed on oil prices.

Losses were limited by a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), which said inventories in the developed world fell 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in the last three months of 2013 in the steepest quarterly decline since 1999.

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A winter storm battering the Northeast also sent natural gas prices soaring by nearly 8 percent on the day. The contract spiked after the weekly storage report showed a sharp drop in natgas stockpiles.

Brent crude for March delivery, due to expire later on Thursday, was flat under $109 a barrel, after closing up 11 cents in the previous session. The April contract rose 13 cents to $108.48.

U.S. crude also known as West Texas Intermediate (WTI), ended up 2 cents at $100.35 a barrel, having dipped as low as $99.40 a barrel earlier in the session, below the 200-day moving average of $99.51.

WTI traded as high as $101.38 on Wednesday, the loftiest since Oct. 18, after data showed TransCanada Corp's Gulf Coast pipeline began in earnest to drain oil from benchmark delivery point Cushing, Oklahoma.

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