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WTI oil futures up 3% after bullish weekly stockpile data

West Texas Intermediate oil were sharply higher in North America trade on Wednesday, after data showed that oil supplies in the U.S. rose less than feared last week.

Crude oil for April delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange jumped $1.07, or 2.91% to trade at $37.41 a barrel by 14:35GMT, or 10:35AM ET. Prices were at around $37.50 prior to the release of the inventory data.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report that crude oil inventories rose by 1.3 million barrels in the week ended March 11. Market analysts’ expected a crude-stock rise of 3.4 million barrels, while the American Petroleum Institute late Tuesday reported a supply gain of 1.5 million barrels.

Supplies at Cushing, Oklahoma, the key delivery point for Nymex crude, rose by 545,000 barrels last week, the EIA said. Total U.S. crude oil inventories stood at an all-time high of 523.2 million barrels as of last week.

The report also showed that gasoline inventories decreased by 0.7 million barrels, compared to expectations for a drop of 2.4 million barrels, while distillate stockpiles fell by 1.1 million barrels.

Since falling to 13-year lows at $26.05 on February 11, U.S. crude futures have rebounded by approximately 35% as a decline in U.S. shale production boosted sentiment.

Elsewhere, On the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil for May delivery soared $1.03, or 2.66%, to $39.77 after OPEC and non-OPEC producers agreed to hold their next meeting on a plan to freeze output levels in Doha, Qatar on April 17, even without the attendance of Iran.

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s Oil Minister said that nearly 20 crude producing countries would meet for the Doha talks in mid-April and added he was personally speaking to his Iranian counterpart about the proposal.

Brent futures are up by roughly 30%, since briefly dropping below $30 a barrel on February 11 as continued hopes major oil producers will discuss a potential output freeze lifted prices.

Short-covering began in mid-February after Saudi Arabia and fellow OPEC members Qatar and Venezuela agreed with non-OPEC member Russia to freeze output at January levels, provided other oil exporters joined in.

Meanwhile, Brent’s premium to the West Texas Intermediate crude contract stood at $2.36 a barrel, compared to a gap of $2.40 by close of trade on Tuesday.

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