Scarabeo 9, a new Chinese-built drilling rig, is seen in Singapore in this August 26, 2011 handout photo. The Scarabeo 9, owned by Italian oil giant Eni SpA's offshore unit Saipem and contracted in Cuba by Spanish oil firm Repsol YPF, was anchored in Singapore and ready to leave on what an Eni spokesman said would be an 80-day voyage. Picture taken August 26, 2011. REUTERS/Keppel Offshore & Marine/Handout (SINGAPORE - Tags: ENERGY BUSINESS COMMODITIES) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Scarabeo 9, a new Chinese-built drilling rig, is seen in Singapore in this August 26, 2011 handout photo. The Scarabeo 9, owned by Italian oil giant Eni SpA's offshore unit Saipem and contracted in Cuba by Spanish oil firm Repsol YPF, was anchored in ... Singapore and ready to leave on what an Eni spokesman said would be an 80-day voyage. Picture taken August 26, 2011. REUTERS/Keppel Offshore & Marine/Handout (SINGAPORE - Tags: ENERGY BUSINESS COMMODITIES) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Reuters)

U.S. Crude Rises Above $100 for First Time This Year

Oil Reuters

Oil rose by more than $2 to one-month highs on Friday, fueled by a sharp rally in gasoline and heating oil as supplies tightened and refiners started to shut down plants for maintenance.

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U.S. crude oil rose above $100 a barrel for the first time this year, following a rally in the equities market triggered by the U.S. unemployment rate falling to a five-year low.

The expectation for tight diesel and heating oil supplies sent oil prices soaring as persistently cold weather across the U.S. continued to eat into heating fuel stocks. Spiking natural gas prices in the U.S. Northeast have prompted utilities to turn to fuel oil for electricity generation in the region.

At the same time, European refiners cut processing runs, meaning less product is being made, while Britain's biggest oilfield, Buzzard, will undergo a total nine weeks of maintenance in 2014, rather than the two weeks traders had expected as supplies tightened.

Brent blasted above the 200-day moving average of $107.89, then the 100-day at $108.68 and the 50-day of $108.73, setting off additional buying pressure that boosted both the European benchmark and U.S. crude, analysts said.

"The Brent market definitely helped lift WTI along with the product markets," said Tariq Zahir, managing member of commodity trading advisor Tyche Capital Advisors in New York. "We're getting to the technical levels that give us instantaneous buying."

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Brent crude oil futures settled $2.38 higher at $109.57, the highest point since Jan. 2.

U.S. crude settled up $2.04 to $99.88 a barrel, its highest point since Dec. 27. U.S. crude touched above $100 a barrel toward the end of the trading day and moved higher after the market's close.

Brent's premium to the U.S. benchmark <CL-LCO1=R> widened 34 cents to $9.69 a barrel. The spread had narrowed on Wednesday to $7.94, the tightest since Oct. 10.

U.S. heating oil futures settled 5 and 1/2 cents higher at $3.0503 per gallon. U.S. gasoline futures rose 6.35 cents to settle at $2.7489 per gallon.

Traders raised their net long U.S. crude positions in the week to Feb. 4, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) said Friday.

U.S. REFINING SEASON, IRAN

Any gains in U.S. crude that would have been capped as refiners enter maintenance season were offset by the need for refiners to make heating and transportation fuels.

Citgo Petroleum Corp began a shutdown of both plants at its refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Wednesday and Motiva Enterprises LLC said it began maintenance at its 235,000 barrel-per-day refinery in Convent, Louisiana, on Thursday.

The market was keeping a wary eye on Saturday's talks between Iran and the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency in Tehran.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog hopes to persuade the Islamic state to start addressing long-held suspicions it has worked on designing a nuclear bomb.

Tough international sanctions over the past two years have cut Iran's oil exports in half.

(By Jeanine Prezioso and Elizabeth Dilts; Additional reporting by Christopher Johnson, Simon Falush and Ron Bousso in London and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Singapore; Editing by William Hardy, Dale Hudson, Chris Reese, Peter Galloway and Meredith Mazzilli)