Oil stages rally, US crude ends higher after inventory data

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U.S. crude rallied by nearly $1 on Wednesday, narrowing the discount between the benchmark and North Sea Brent to its lowest since early October, after data showed the fourth consecutive weekly drop in inventories at the Cushing, Oklahoma delivery hub.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said that crude stocks in the United States rose overall by just 68,000 barrels last week, far less than expected, while stocks at Cushing fell by 1.1 million barrels.

Crude stocks at Cushing, delivery point of the benchmark U.S. oil contract, have fallen by more than 12 percent since early January to less than 35 million barrels, following the start-up of TransCanada's major Gulf Coast pipeline, the southern leg of Keystone XL.

U.S. oil extended gains after the EIA data, settling up 76 cents higher at $102.59. Brent crude was up 30 cents to near $110 a barrel by the same time.

Unrest in North African exporter Libya has cut supplies of oil since the middle of last year. More than 100 rockets fired in clashes between rival government-paid militia knocked out a power plant in southern Libya on Tuesday.

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