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Oil rises to near US$103 a barrel on continuing unrest in eastern Ukraine

The price of oil edged up closer to US$103 a barrel Wednesday amid unrest in eastern Ukraine, even as a report showed a large rise in U.S. crude stockpiles.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark U.S. crude oil for May delivery was up 25 cents to US$102.81 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained US$2.12 to US$102.56 on Tuesday.

Brent crude, used to set prices for international oil varieties, was up 31 cents to US$107.98 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Prices also rose despite a report of surging U.S. crude stockpiles. The industry-funded American Petroleum Institute said late Tuesday that crude stocks expanded by 7.1 million barrels last week, while a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos., had predicted a rise of 2.5 million barrels.

Data from the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration — the market benchmark — will be out later Wednesday.

In other energy futures trading in New York:

— Wholesale gasoline added 0.93 cent to US$2.9894 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 1.4 cents to US$4.548 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Heating oil gained 0.7 cent to US$2.9414 a gallon.

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