Oil prices rose back over $81 on Thursday, after a smaller-than-expected build in U.S. natural gas stocks and a decline in distillate fuel inventories spurred fresh buying by investment funds, dealers said.
U.S. light, sweet crude settled up $1.50 at $81.44 per barrel, putting it within sight of the record $83.90 a barrel hit Sept. 20.
London Brent crude rose $1.78 to $78.97 per barrel.
Heating oil futures gained 2.4 percent or 5.26 cents to settle at $2.2313 a gallon, spurred by continued worries over tight supplies despite forecasts for a warm winter in the United States.
"There has been fund buying on dips, with the fall below $79 seen as a buying opportunity," said Eric Wittenauer of A.G. Edwards in St. Louis.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Thursday that natural gas storage rose by 57 billion cubic feet last week, well short of the 67 bcf build analysts had expected.