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US oil shrugs off stockpile surge, Fed; ends over $100

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Brent oil futures fell by $1 a barrel on Wednesday, touching 6-week lows on easing worries that tensions in Ukraine would escalate, while U.S. crude oil rose ahead of the contract's expiration.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty on Tuesday making Crimea part of Russia, but said he did not plan to seize any other regions of Ukraine. Western sanctions imposed on Monday targeted individuals and not broad trade.

U.S. crude oil stockpiles soared nearly 6 million barrels last week, more than double forecasts, as refinery utilization fell during a time of low seasonal demand, U.S. Energy Information Administration data showed on Wednesday.

But West Texas Intermediate rose modestly in spite of the build, as traders covered short positions. Also supporting U.S. crude was a 989,000 barrel draw at the Cushing, Oklahoma, oil hub.

Brent fell 80 cents to stay under $106 a barrel, briefly touching its lowest since Feb. 5 intra-day. U.S. crude for April delivery rose 67 cents to settle at $100.37 per barrel, holding gains after the Federal Reserve voted to taper its massive bond purchases by $10 billion. The contract expires today.

The operator of the Seaway pipeline, which takes crude from Cushing to the U.S. Gulf Coast, said the conduit would be ready to double shipments as soon as late May, earlier than some analysts had expected. This will drain stockpiles at Cushing and lend support to U.S. crude prices, analysts say.

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