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Oil ends higher as encouraging US data boosts WTI

Oil pumps wells Monterey Shale fracking
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U.S. crude oil rose on Monday, hovering around $94 a barrel on support from strong U.S. economic data last week, while Brent edged up after nearing a two-year low last week.

With U.S. refinery maintenance season around the corner, analysts said prices for U.S. crude, or West Texas Intermediate (WTI), may come under pressure. Gasoline prices have jumped around 6 percent in the last two weeks due to refinery maintenance shutdowns, and strength in gasoline has supported crude prices. Still, the contract jumped after data showed U.S. spending and income rose strongly last month.

"I think demand by U.S. refiners to make product to export is definitely supporting WTI prices," said Gene McGillian, an analyst at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut. "Looking overseas, reports that Libya's production has climbed back...means we don't have supply disruptions."

U.S. crude for November delivery jumped $1.03 to end at $94.57 a barrel. Meanwhile, Brent crude rose 20 cents to above $97 a barrel. Brent's premium over WTI narrowed to the smallest in 12 months, touching $2.91 a barrel, before widening back to $2.97 a barrel.

Analysts and traders said that when maintenance season pressures U.S. crude prices, there will be an opportunity for a wider arbitrage.

Overseas, Chinese industrial profits fell 0.6 percent in August from a year earlier, a reversal from July's 13.5 percent rise. The world's No. 2 economy has also had problems with unsteady exports, a housing downturn and cooling investment growth.

Iran has urged OPEC members to make coordinated efforts to help stem the decline in oil, but that has highlighted a split with others in the oil producers' group such as Saudi Arabia who are playing down the price drop. Providing some support, a strike has trimmed Libya's oil output by 25,000 barrels a day to 900,000 bpd, a spokesman for state-run National Oil Corp (NOC) said on Sunday, but production is still up from a low of 200,000 bpd earlier in the year.