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Crude oil rises to US$97.84 a barrel on labour market news, cold weather

NEW YORK, N.Y. - The prices of oil rose Thursday as a positive report on the U.S. labor market and more cold temperatures boosted expectations of higher demand for heating oil.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for March delivery rose 46 cents to close at US$97.84 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after earlier rising near US$99.

The U.S. Labor Department said the number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits declined 20,000 last week to 331,000, suggesting that Americans are facing fewer layoffs and better job prospects. Those figures came a day before a widely anticipated report on January employment.

With chilly temperatures across the middle of the United States and into the U.S. Northeast, demand for heating oil remains strong. That should boost refineries' need for crude oil.

Natural gas prices were again volatile again, rising seven per cent to US$5.40 per 1,000 cubic feet in the morning, then falling sharply to close down 10 cents at US$4.83.

The Energy Department said the U.S. supply of natural gas dropped by 2.62 billion cubic feet last week, but that was much less than analysts were expecting.

Brent crude, a benchmark for oil sold internationally, gained 94 cents to US$107.19 on the ICE exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex, wholesale gasoline gained four cents to US$2.68 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litres) and heating oil was flat at US$3 a gallon.


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