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Oil prices up on winter demand, Yellen testimony

SINGAPORE--Oil prices rose in Asia Wednesday on strong winter demand and expectations that new Federal Reserve head Janet Yellen will not shake up U.S. monetary policy.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for March, was up 56 cents at US$100.50 in afternoon Asian trade, while Brent North Sea crude was 11 cents higher at US$108.79.

“The cold weather continues to come into play here with a fall in distillate supplies,” said Desmond Chua, an analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore.

“Investors seem to like the certainty and confidence of ... Yellen,” he added.

Investors are also looking ahead to the U.S. Department of Energy's weekly petroleum stockpiles data to be released later Wednesday.

Analysts expect the data will show U.S. crude supplies rose 2.5 million barrels in the week to February 7, according to a Wall Street Journal survey.

With North America battered by unexpectedly frigid winter weather, gasoline stockpiles are expected to fall 200,000 barrels while distillates, including heating oil and diesel fuel, are tipped to drop 2.1 million barrels.

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