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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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