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Energy stocks outperform as US oil settles at new high

The Sedco 714 oil platform, operated by Transocean Ltd., stands in the Port of Cromarty Firth in Cromarty, U.K.
Matthew Lloyd | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The Sedco 714 oil platform, operated by Transocean Ltd., stands in the Port of Cromarty Firth in Cromarty, U.K.

The energy sector was the best performing group in the S&P 500 on Wednesday, gaining about 1.4 percent on the day.

The key energy ETF gained about 1.4 percent, while the broader market inched up a little less than 0.3 percent.

In late morning trading, U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures hit a high of $51.90 a barrel, its highest level since Jul. 2015. U.S. crude later settled at $51.60 a barrel, its best settle since July 2015.

Transocean, Halliburton and Newfield Exploration were among the best performers in the sector, gaining about 5 percent, 4 percent and 4 percent, respectively.

The sector is also the top performer so far in 2016, gaining more than 16 percent year to date.

— CNBC's Christopher Hayes contributed to this report.