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US oil surges to $39.72, up about 8 pct for week

U.S. oil prices jumped over 6 percent on Friday, posting their largest weekly gain since February, as drawdowns in U.S. crude stockpiles fed hopes that a punishing global oversupply may be nearing tipping point.

U.S. gasoline and diesel prices rallied along with crude, rising more than 5 percent each. Gasoline has been one of the strongest pillars of support for U.S. crude this year. Ultra low sulfur diesel, also known as heating oil, has rebounded this week on seasonally cold weather forecasts through late April.

Front month U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures settled at $39.72 a barrel, up $2.46, or 6.6 percent, and gained 7.96 percent for the week. International Brent futures were up $2.38, or 6 percent, at $41.81 a barrel.

For the week, both benchmarks were on track to rise about 7 percent, their most since the week ended March 4.

"We are starting to draw crude inventories in the U.S." said Scott Shelton, energy broker with ICAP in Durham, North Carolina. "Run rates are rising and U.S. production is falling.

"This is very different I think than what was expected. The market perceives that these draws may continue as the Keystone outage will increase the likelihood," Shelton.

U.S. crude stockpiles fell by nearly 5 million barrels last week versus analysts forecasts for a build of 3.2 million barrels, government data showed.

The shutdown of the Keystone crude pipeline that delivers oil to Cushing also contributed to a drop of more than 480,000 barrels at the Oklahoma delivery point for U.S. crude futures in the five days to Tuesday, data from market intelligence firm Genscape showed.

The number of oil rigs operating in U.S. oil fields fell by 8 to a total of 354 in the previous week, oilfield services firm Baker Hughes said Friday. At this time last year, drillers had 760 oil rigs online.

"There are some folks who are expecting U.S. oil production to come down fairly rapidly now," John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital told CNBC.

Summer maintenance in the North Sea fields that form the basis of the Brent benchmark also helped boost near-term prices.

Brent futures on Tuesday flipped into backwardation, meaning the front-month contract traded lower than forward prices, Kilduff said. That marked a change in trend and provided a bullish structure for the international benchmark, he said.

A rebound in financial markets also boosted optimism over demand. The U.S. Federal Reserve said the country was on the path of more economic growth, while rating agency Moody's said Germany, Europe's biggest economy, should see a slight acceleration in growth to 1.8 percent.

Some traders also cited optimism over an upcoming meeting of major oil producers in Doha in April that was intended to set in motion a plan to freeze production at January's highs.

Russia's oil production could fall in April, sources said, while the country's energy minister expressed hopes that producer nations could agree to the freeze.

Still, some warned that oil prices could fall again, dragged down by a glut that will take time to clear and soaring production outside the United States, especially in parts of the Middle East.

"We believe the current oil price is unsustainable and expect a fundamental price recovery when markets move into better balance in mid- to late-2H16," investment bank Jefferies said, adding that "the recovery could be protracted."

Iraq said on Thursday that exports from its southern ports had hit almost 3.5 million bpd by April, up from an average of 3.29 million bpd in March, putting doubts on the feasibility of the meeting to freeze output levels.

Iran, which was relieved from crippling international sanctions in January which had cut its crude exports to little more than 1 million bpd, has said it would only participate in a production freeze once it had regained its pre-sanctions levels of 4 million bpd, pouring cold water on any hopes that ballooning oversupply can be reined in soon.

— CNBC's Tom DiChristopher contributed to this story.