UP UP AND AWAY

Posted on: Feb 17, 2012 at 01:12
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Reuters) - Brent crude rose on Thursday for a fourth day in a row, topping $120 a barrel at settlement -- an eight-month high -- on worries about supply from Iran and from the North Sea, where output was expected to dip next month.

The euro's rebound against the dollar also boosted crude oil on both sides of the Atlantic.

The euro surged, reversing an early decline after reports that euro zone central banks had agreed to exchange Greek bonds they hold for new bonds as part of a deal to help the debt-strapped country. This raised hopes that Greece's long-sought debt bailout would be agreed by next week.

U.S. crude erased an early $1 decline and rose to a six-week high as upbeat data on jobless claims and housing brightened the outlook for domestic energy demand. The U.S. data also helped lift Brent.

In London, ICE Brent April crude settled at $120.11 a barrel, gaining $1.18, or 0.99 percent, the highest settlement for front-month Brent since June 14, when prices ended at $120.16. The contract hit a session high of $120.38, the steepest since an intraday high of $120.40 on August 1.

In euro terms, Brent prices were the highest since 2008, according to Reuters data.

U.S. March crude closed at $102.31, gaining 51 cents, the highest settlement since the January 4 settlement at $103.22. It hit a session high of $102.69, the highest since January 12's peak of $102.98.

Implied volatility, as measured by the Chicago Board Options Exchange's Oil Volatility Index .OVX settled near the day's low of 33.99 percent, after rising to 35.88 percent following a slew of positive economic data.

Adding further support to crude, U.S. gasoline futures rose to their highest level in 5-1/2 months, with front-month March RBOB hitting $3.0514 a gallon before closing up 4.04 cents at $3.0471a gallon.

A lower-than-expected gasoline stock build for last week shown in government inventory data released on Wednesday helped boost gasoline futures.

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