US oil gets a cold weather boost, ends over $97

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U.S. crude oil futures rose more than $1 on Thursday, narrowing the discount to European Brent to the lowest level for two months, after a sizable draw in distillates drove the heating fuel price to its highest so far this year.

U.S. oil extended its rally from Wednesday earlier in the session after TransCanada announced the start up of its Gulf Coast pipeline that will carry 700,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) from Cushing, Oklahoma, the pricing point for the New York Mercantile Exchange, to Gulf Coast refineries. Brutally cold weather this winter, particularly in the densely-populated U.S. Northeast, continued to boost demand for heating fuels, driving natural gas and oil product prices higher.

The TransCanada news coupled with a large distillate draw narrowed U.S. oil's discount to Brent by more than $1 to $10.05 per barrel. The spread broke the 100-day moving average of $10.48 for the first time in three-and-a-half months and contracted to its tightest point in two-and-a-half months.

U.S. crude's rally came in spite of a 990,000 barrel build in stocks, the first increase in eight weeks. Brent oil fell after data showed China's factory sector contracted in January for the first time in six months. China is the world's second largest oil consumer.

, which slipped as low as $107.85, was off about 50 cents under $108 a barrel. It settled up $1.54 on Wednesday at its highest level since Dec. 31. U.S. oil ended up 59 cents at $97.32, its highest close of 2014, after settling $1.76 higher at $96.73 in the previous session. The contract was on track for its largest weekly percentage gain in two months.

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