Crude oil futures ended higher after meeting minutes from the Federal Reserve's policy-making arm indicated further monetary easing could be deemed necessary "fairly soon."
Light, sweet crude for October delivery rose 42 cents, or 0.4%, to settle at $97.26 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its first close above $97 since May 10. Brent crude on ICE Futures Europe was recently up 41 cents, or 0.4%, at $115.05 a barrel.
The minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee's July 31-Aug. 1 meeting showed that "many members judged that additional monetary accommodation would likely be warranted" unless economic indicators show more strengthening, though a clear decision-making timeline wasn't laid out.
The euro climbed above $1.25 against the dollar after the minutes were released at 2 p.m. EDT.
The news was "the best the market could have expected from the Fed," said Matt Smith, an analyst with Summit Energy.
Crude futures rose earlier in the session after the Energy Information Administration said U.S. crude oil stocks fell by 5.4 million barrels in the week ended Friday. Analysts had expected a 200,000-barrel rise in crude-oil inventories, according to a Dow Jones Newswires survey.
However, the overall inventory data were "a little bit more of a mixed bag," said Tariq Zahir, a managing member of Tyche Capital Advisors. Distillate stocks, which include heating oil and diesel fuel, rose by 1 million barrels to 125.2 million barrels, more than analysts' forecast of a 700,000-barrel rise.
The market's attention will now turn to meetings between the Greek prime minister and the French and German heads of state Friday and Saturday, Mr. Smith said. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is expected to request more time for the country to meet austerity measures. Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday that Greece faces its "last chance" to prove its credibility to creditors.
Front-month September reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, rose 3.9 cents, or 1.3%, to $3.1042 a gallon. September heating oil rose 0.44 cent, or 0.1%, to $3.1287 a gallon.
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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