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Crude Rallies on Signs Of Higher Energy Demand

Oil rose Friday, hitting an 11-month high above $77 a barrel on speculative buying as North Sea production problems and forecasts for rising demand tightened the supply outlook.

Oil has gained more than $6 in two weeks on a wave of buying by funds during the U.S. summer vacation season, when demand for gasoline peaks in the top oil-consuming country.

Global benchmark crude London Brent settled up $1.17 to $77.57 a barrel. Earlier, it reached an 11-month high of $77.68 -- a dollar short of last August's $78.65 all-time record. U.S. crude gained $1.43 to $73.93 a barrel.

Prices were boosted by news UK North Sea oil and gas production could be affected for weeks after a ship's anchor damaged a pipeline needed to export associated gas to Britain.

Some field operators say oil production was affected by the July 1 closure of the Central Area Transmission System (CATS) gas pipeline.

The disruption also helped push prices for the prompt August Brent contract above later months.

"The Brent market remains the chief locomotive for the bull market here, with pipeline issues that could last for a few weeks resulting in a nearby squeeze that has pushed the nearby futures above the forward market." Tim Evans of Citigroup.

"A lot of today's rise in crude futures is due to money coming from speculative funds," said Kyle Cooper, director of Research at IAF Advisors in Houston, Texas.

U.S. light, sweet crude rose above the $73 mark.

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